The challenges of the ageing population, managing skilled migration and housing our growing population are issues of the moment.
We’re four full months into the year, and four significant policy matters have captured media commentary and political attention: population, economic growth, skills and infrastructure. These four inter-related challenges, and opportunities, are critically important matters for both our industry and for Australia’s future. Increasingly, they are also dividing public opinion.
On one side of the debate, advocates argue that Australia’s immigration numbers are too high, that our current population growth rate is unsustainable and that perceived downsides of a larger population through higher migration policy cannot be ignored. These being city congestion, higher house prices, falling job vacancy rates, declining access to essential community services and low wage growth.
On the other hand, increasing our population, including through a well-managed skilled migration program, will expand our workforce capacity, support economic growth, increase taxation revenue and help to offset the mounting welfare costs of our ageing population. A larger population helps lift demand for goods and services which in turn generates employment, investment and gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
Australia’s mini natural-population boom, inspired initially by the Howard Government’s baby bonus of the 2000s, is ending. Population policy now needs to focus on our nation’s ageing population and the crucial role that net overseas migration (NOM) will play in the years and decades ahead.