What Migrants Mean to Australia's Growth

October 14, 2013

What Migrants Mean to Australia's Growth

For a big island like Australia, with a small and ageing population, a considered immigration framework is, as crucial a resource, as capital, oil and trade. At a time when Australia is in the midst of a fierce debate about its strategy towards migrants, asylum seekers, boat people and refugees, an article in "The Age" shows, how migrants, particularly, the boat people and refugees, have made it big in the country.

Migrants Provide Australia, its workforce

Despite critics who argue that the widespread immigration trend disturbs social cohesion, destroys the cultural integrity and strains environment and infrastructure; the benefits of migration for Australia cannot be understated.

In actuality, migrants provide Australia, its much need workforce and population stability  

Migration has accounted for over half of the country's population gain in 2011. Importantly, among the migrants in 2011, 37 per cent were in the prime working age of 25 to 44, and less than 1 per cent older than 64. Contrast this with Australian-born population figures. The population statistics show that in 2011, only 27 per cent of people born in Australia were in the prime working age, whereas almost 12 percent were over 64 years of age.

But migration issues, the article says, have been reduced to politicised sound-bites. Julia Gillard, the country's former Prime Minister, likened the 457 visa program to asylum seekers. The 457 visa program is very popular among potential high skilled migrants from developing countries like India, who wish to seek opportunities in Australia. The program is designed to meet short-term skills shortages in Australian industries.

Although political parties on both side understand that curtailing immigration will cause long-term damage to the Australian economy, politicians still resort to jingoism. For instance, Ms Gillard talked of wanting "to stop foreign workers being put at the front of the queue with Australian workers at the back."

Refugees and boat people are a small component

Decrying the present policy measure of turning back the asylum seeking boat people, The Age article points out that, they are "only a small part of Australia's annual migrant intake." Compared to the "almost 185,000 migrants," that Australia received under various migration schemes, the number of applications for asylum was only 15,790.

At the crux of the debate is the quote in the article, by Tan Le, the 1998 Young Australian of the Year, who set out from Vietnam, on boat in 1981, and is now the co-founder of Emotiv, a producer of headsets that read brain signals and facial movements to control technology:  "I arrived in Australia at the age of four and that transformed the opportunity that I had because my brain was still young, it was still in its formative years and still able to adapt and learn very efficiently."

Le represents a generation of migrants who have settled in Australia, made it their home and continue to contribute to the nation's prosperity.

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