Australia slashes immigration as recession looms
Monday 16 March 2009
Australia will cut its intake of migrants for the first time in a decade, the government said today, amid concern that skilled foreign workers could stoke resentment by taking jobs at a time of rising unemployment.
With a recession looming and the centre-left government expecting unemployment to reach 7 per cent by mid-2010, Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the intake of skilled migrants would be reduced by about 14 per cent.
Australia goes to the polls in late 2010 and immigration has been a charged issue in past polls, particularly following economic downturn.
A leading migration expert, former government official Bob Kinnaird, said record recent migrant arrivals in a fast shrinking job market were leading to "highly combustible" conditions in regional areas, where many new arrivals had settled.
Australia is a nation of immigrants and has been enjoying a boom in new arrivals for the past decade to help meet labour shortages as a China-fuelled mining boom drove unemployment rates to 30-year lows.
But six of Australia's major trading partners are now in recession and economic growth has stalled. The country moved a step closer to recession this month with the first contraction in eight years and the economy shrinking by 0.5 per cent.
Australia's jobless rate spiked to 5.2 per cent from 4.8 per cent last month with the biggest impact felt by full-time workers. Some economists fear unemployment levels could go as high as 10 per cent.
Evans said the immigration intake next year would be cut to 115,000, from 133,500 in 2008-09.
In major resource states Queensland and Western Australia, retrenched mine workers returning to their home towns found that jobs there had been filled by foreign workers, sparking resentment, Kinnaird said.
"You could say in those last few months that madness has reigned," he told the Brisbane Times newspaper.
The ruling Labor Party, with its roots in the workers' movement, should have acted sooner to cut migration as economic conditions cooled to lance any voter backlash and ease tensions in critical country voting areas, he said.
But the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the government needed to be wary of tinkering with immigration, as many skilled employment areas still faced a worker shortage and lack of workers could crimp an economic recovery.
"We would have preferred a status quo position," chamber Chief Executive Peter Anderson said.
Evans, who removed hairdressers and cooks off Australia's critical occupation shortage list at Christmas, said he was now also deleting foreign bricklayers, plumbers, carpenters and electricians from the list that guides skilled migration intake.
Further cuts were likely in the 12 May budget, he said, leaving only health occupations, engineering and information technology skills as needed skills.
"What we'll look to do is run a smaller programme and keep the capacity to make sure we can bring in any labour we might need as the year develops," Evans said.
The government hopes its recently announced A$42bn (£19bn) stimulus package, including cash handouts and infrastructure spending, will help the economy through the downturn.
- 1 Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
- 2 Perez Hilton apologises for Jennifer Lawrence nude photo leak
- 3 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 4 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
- 5 Isis terror threat: Leading British Muslims issue fatwa condemning terror group
Israel-Gaza crisis: YouTube footage shows scale of destruction after 50 days of shelling
iPhone 6 'hidden code' could indicate sharper screens or bigger phones
Ebola virus: It's ripped through towns – now the deadliest ever outbreak of the virus is heading for Africa's teeming cities
Perez Hilton apologises for Jennifer Lawrence nude photo leak
A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
£24000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Are you a Marketin...
£70000 - £75000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Katie Robinson +44 (...
£28000 - £30000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare: Ashdown Group: IT Support Ana...
£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: KS1 Teaching Specialist Leic...