The chief executive of the business lobby, Innes Wilcox, thinks that up to 2.8 million migrants are needed to fill gaps in the economy:
Mr Wilcox says while there are Australians without work, there are not enough skilled workers for a range of specialist occupations, with the Ai Group singling out residential construction as an area of acute shortages.
Strange that he should single out residential construction as a labour shortage area. If you increase migration then you need to build more houses, not less - you could just as easily end up with a worse labour shortage.
Professor Bob Birrell has conducted research which shows that the skilled migration programme is not very successful in plugging skilled labour shortages. The single biggest category of those arriving as skilled migrants are cooks. Of those from non-English speaking backgrounds arriving with degrees, 31 per cent remain unemployed (compared to 9 per cent of locals with degrees) and only 26% end up in professional employment. Of NESBs with management and commerce credentials, only 18% end up being professionally employed.
So what then does big business really want out of a mass immigration programme? One thing to remember is that it is not big business itself that has to pay the cost of that 31% unemployment rate. That cost is spread out amongst the community. And with a supply of overseas labour there is more competition for employment amongst the semi-skilled and unskilled, especially amongst young people. You can understand too that a business lobby group might like the idea that they can freely draw in labour from wherever they want, regardless of economic circumstances or the impact on the host society.
One of the good things about all this are the comments to the ABC news report on this story. Many of the comments reject the idea of relying on overseas migration for skills, calling instead for companies to invest in training locals:
DonM: Surely we are smart enough to get by with a very modest level of migration say less than 100,000 migrants per year and focus on training our own people to meet skill shortages.
OskO: Answer is definitely NO as long as our unemployment rate is above 5% and our under employment rate is above 10%.
Serenity_Gate: Check out Germany's apprenticeship system. Wonder why German technology is so good? Their apprenticeship training scheme. Businesses are FORCED to train apprentices. This should be happening in Australia for our future. This is just a push to drive down costs of production through lower wages.
Kog: This is exactly what has happened across the IT sector, or what is left of it after outsourcing overseas. Record numbers of engineers out of work, and they want to import more?
That last comment does seem to be true. I know of some highly trained and experienced IT professionals who simply can't get work right now. In my industry (education), too, it is not uncommon for there to be over 100 applicants for each vacant position.
Perhaps public opinion, even amongst some middle-class Australians, will begin to make itself heard on this issue.