March 7, 2009
March 7, 2009

Australian Government told Migrants ‘vital to recovery’

The Rudd Government has been told to resist pressure to slash Australia’s permanent immigration intake in the face of lengthening dole queues, or risk stifling the nation’s eventual economic recovery.

Leading demographer Peter McDonald has warned against short-sighted immigration decisions, saying overseas migrants will be the key drivers of economic growth over the next 40 years as millions of baby boomers move into retirement.

‘At present, Australian labour force policy tends to be more a matter of reaction than of long-term planning,’ Professor McDonald wrote in a report presented to the Immigration Department this week.

‘Labour shortages emerge, and attempts are made to plug them through training or immigration. This approach often leads to short cycles of under- and over-supply, as has been evident in the IT industry in recent years.

‘In the short to medium term (the next 20 years), immigration is the only means available to meet large aggregate labour demand in Australia.’

Professor McDonald, director of the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, said immigration levels tended to move behind the economic cycle: highest when peak economic activity tips over into recession, and savagely cut just at the time more workers were needed to help rebuild the economy.

When the 1974 recession hit, net overseas migration was 87,000. The following year it was cut to 13,500 and only returned to 1974 levels in 1980. In the 1982-83 recession, net migration fell from 123,000 in 1981 and 103,000 in 1982 to 55,000 in 1983, only returning to 1981 levels six years later.

‘Immigration has a long lag-time,’ Professor McDonald said. ‘Targets are set well in advance, visa grants often take a long time, and then the immigrant has many months to actually take up the grant. We shouldn’t let the numbers drop off as dramatically as they have in past recessions. We should be evening out the peaks and troughs.’

Record numbers of migrants came to Australia last year and more than 200,000 are expected in 2008-09.

Immigration is vital

Immigration Minister Chris Evans has flagged cuts to the number of foreign workers allowed into the country in the wake of the global financial crisis, saying the Rudd Government is committed to protecting Australian jobs.

Professor McDonald said no immigration strategy could prevent a fall in labour supply in the 2020s as the population aged. His modelling found the optimum number of migrants to maintain a growing economy in coming decades in response to the changes in age structure was about 180,000 a year.

‘Migrants do provide their own economic stimulus,’ Professor McDonald said. ‘They come into the country with money, they spend it to buy houses and set themselves up.’

But immigrants create pressure on existing infrastructure, and housing supply is already a problem in the capital cities, particularly Sydney.

‘A plan relating to Australia’s future levels of immigration must be co-ordinated with policy for urban infrastructure, especially housing, transport, water and appropriate energy supply,’ Professor McDonald said.


Source: The Australian, March 06, 2009

March 6, 2009

Universities will be encouraged to forge links with vocational education institutions to meet Australia’s skills needs, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard says.

Ms Gillard announced the establishment of a new federal body to build links between the two sectors as well as plans to expand the role of Skills Australia and improve TAFE retention rates.

She told the Big Skills Conference in Sydney the government would commission the Australian Qualifications Framework Council to improve communication between universities and the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sectors.

She said improving the connection between the different skills groups would make the systems more student focused.

“In the construction arena for example, university based architects, engineers and climate experts will have to create new synergies with instructors in plumbing, carpentry, electronics and other skilled trades,” Ms Gillard told the conference.

“Ultimately we need the two systems to work together to produce integrated responses to national needs in knowledge, skill development and social inclusion.”

said the government advisory body Skills Australia would be expanded to provide advice to the government about the effectiveness of the university and VET systems to meet Australia’s skills needs.



“Skills Australia will have access to the level of research and employment market intelligence it needs to make a real impact on future VET provision.”

Ms Gillard said regulation in the VET sector was currently fragmented between jurisdictions with variations in performance auditing and monitoring.

“To counter this, the government will work with the states and territories to develop strong and cohesive national regulatory arrangements for VET,” she said.

“It is important that this work progresses alongside the establishment of the proposed higher education regulator.”

TAFE retention rates needed to improve, she said.

“The sector as a whole needs to focus squarely on the unacceptable rates of completion of VET courses and apprenticeships,” she said.

Ms Gillard said manufacturing, tourism, finance and mining were going through a painful period but it was critical for Australia to strengthen its skills base.

“Even in this period of gloom we must recognise that our future economic strength is going to depend on developing the right skills needed to underpin the next wave of prosperity.”


March 5, 2009

March 6, 2009

The number of international students studying in Australia jumped 21 per cent last year, the biggest rise since 2002, Education Minister Julia Gillard says.

A record 543,898 international students attended Australian institutions in 2008, the first time the figure exceeded 500,000 in a calendar year.

But it’s too early to know what impact the global financial crisis will have on 2009 enrolments.

The majority of international students in Australia attend universities and TAFEs.

The higher education sector grew by 4.7 per cent last year, new Australian Education International data reveals.

Enrolments by Asian students was up 21.5 per cent, with China providing
the greatest overall figure of 127,276 enrolments in 2008.

“The increase in student enrolments from Asia is recognition of Australia’s ongoing relationship with our Asian neighbours, and the strong awareness of Australia as a quality education destination around the world,” Ms Gillard said in a statement.

The impact of the global financial crisis on international enrolments in 2009 would become clearer in the next few weeks, the education minister said.

“(But) it is encouraging to hear a number of Australian education institutions reporting continuing strong interest from international students wishing to study in Australia.”

International education contributed $14.2 billion to the economy in 2007-08; making it Australia’s third-largest export behind coal and iron ore.


February 26, 2009 


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