Australia's immigration program has received a lot of attention in the press of late. This is no surprise given the events that are currently taking place around the globe. Fear and misinformation regarding the effect of immigration on the economy have been used as political ammunition during campaigns in both the US and the UK.
For a number of years, Australia's population growth has been driven by immigration rather than natural growth. As of 30 June 2015 28.2%, or 6.7 million, of Australia's estimated resident population were born overseas. Is this a good thing for the Australian economy?
An overwhelming majority of economists think so, according to an Economic Society of Australia panel of Australia's most senior economists.
When proposed the statement'The total benefit of current levels of migration to Australia will outweigh the total costs to Australia's economy,' 83% either agreed or strongly agreed that Australia’s immigration program delivers net economic benefits. Reasons cited for their decision range from the advantage of receiving immigrants who are motivated and qualified to work, to the non-market benefits of a diverse population.
Not one individual disagreed with the statement. Only two were unsure. Their reasoning centered around uncertainty in the composition of immigrants.
The successful “Brexit” campaign to leave the European Union illustrates the consequences of failing to properly manage public perception of immigration. Changes to the United Kingdom’s immigration policy were producing economic benefits and helping to plug gaps in the UK labour market. However, opponents successfully blamed the EU’s free movement of labour for increased immigration and various social and economic problems.