Australian visas should go to younger skilled migrants and we should pay them more, Grattan Institute says (III)

Damian Kassabgi says Australia is positioned well to attract people here to work thanks to the way the country has managed the COVID pandemic.(John Gunn, ABC News.)

Migrants can help in the post-COVID economic recovery

Most experts agree the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to reset our future workforce, and at a time that Australia is seen as an attractive place to work and live.

Australia recently ranked as the third most attractive destination in one survey of economic migrants in 2020, up from fourth in 2018, likely reflecting Australia’s success in managing COVID compared with many competitor countries for skilled migrants, including the US, Canada, Germany and the UK.

“This is a really important opportunity to rethink our migration program,” Ms Wilshire says.

“Over time, we’ve introduced a lot of complexity into our migration program, and perhaps one of the significant findings of the Grattan report is that we might be best served by going back to basics and looking at migration very much in terms of the demographic dividend that it offers to our country, and the long-term lifelong contribution that migrants make.”

She says skilled migration has been fundamental to growing the number of jobs in Australia.

“As we come out of COVID, that’s going to be one of the things we’re going to have to look at — how do we revamp the migration program so that we’re maximising the number of jobs that it offers to the Australian economy of the time.”

A spokesman from the Department of Home Affairs said the current skilled migration program was “designed to meet Australia’s economic, demographic and labour market needs”.

He added that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke had asked a parliamentary inquiry to consider longer-term issues regarding the skilled migration program, and would consider its recommendations when they were handed down in July.

Mr Kassabgi says Australia is positioned well to attract people here to work thanks to the way the country has managed the COVID pandemic relative to other countries.

“We’ve learned two things from COVID,” he says.

“The first thing that we’ve learned is that you don’t need to be in New York, London or Silicon Valley to be running a global business.

“The second thing is that the world has seen Australia managed COVID in a safe way, keeping our economy strong, and ensuring that people still have satisfactory career progression.

“But the one thing Australia lacks is experience. The one thing that we don’t have is this ecosystem, just yet, of people who have built global businesses over a sustained period of time.

“A lot of that talent is in Silicon Valley, in Shanghai, in London.

“Australia has been very good at showing itself as a lifestyle destination — a great place to holiday, a great place to raise a family, a great place to have economic security.”

“What it [Australia] hasn’t done yet, and where I think government can come in [to help], is to promote Australia as somewhere where you can have a significant career. And the time is now.”

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