Article by: Hari Yellina (Orchard Tech)
Australia has been built on immigration. In recent years it has been skilled migration, and that will continue to be important to us, especially as we recover from the COVID economic malaise. Skilled migrants are offered visas that can lead to permanent residency, whereas those with lesser skills are normally only offered visas without such pathways. As the world emerges from the COVID crisis, groups such as the Grattan Institute have been calling for an even greater focus on skilled migration, saying it will deliver us Australians who are younger, smarter and richer.
But Covid has underscored how much the world depends on low-skilled workers, especially in agriculture, hospitality, aged and disability care and construction. Shortages in aged care alone are projected to approach one million by 2050. Ageing means all types of workers will become more scarce. The 40-year projections in this year’s Intergenerational Report have the number of working-age Australians for each Australian aged over 65 shrinking from four to 2.7.
The post-pandemic era provides a rare opportunity for Australia to rethink its migration system. The Japanese case study warrants a closer look at how we define skills and shortages and the balance between the type of workers we want.
There’s a looming war for manual and low-skilled labour in Australia. Asian countries and those in the Middle East have for decades sourced their low-skilled labour from South-East Asia and South Asia. Australia has done it through the Seasonal Worker Programme and the Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme.