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Australians welcome recent “revolution” in immigration policy but exploitation continues – research

August 9, 2017 Business News No Comments Email Email

Australian immigration policy has undergone “unique revolutionary” change over the past 20 years with net economic and social benefits, according to University of Sydney Business School research.

The research also found that, despite some of the current political rhetoric, Australians are overwhelmingly in favour of the current immigration intake which has made the nation richer and more innovative.

However, Dr Chris F. Wright, a senior lecturer in Work and Organisational Studies, warns that while the shift in policy has been largely positive and well supported, there are issues related to vocational training and the exploitation of temporary visas that must be addressed.

Australia’s immigration program, which has shifted away from permanent settlement and family reunions, towards temporary and skills based entry, has seen a fivefold increase in arrivals over the past two decades.

“In the 70s and 80s the intake of migrants was largely focused on the non-workforce attributes of the people that were coming here – family migration, humanitarian migration,” said Dr Wright.

“In the 1990s that changed in a big way. Much greater focus on attracting higher skilled immigrants to address defined skills needs and bringing people here on a temporary as well as a permanent basis.”

This focus on skills, Dr Wright says, has been strongly supported by employers as it has allowed them to more precisely meet their needs. It has also allowed employers to bring in people with new and innovative ideas.

The net economic outcome, he says, has been a positive one.

“Visa regulations have become targeted at people who are high income earners. So migrants, to a much greater extent than in the past and to a greater extent than in other countries, contribute more to the economy by way of taxation than they take in government services.”

According to the research, this shift policy and the growth in immigrant numbers has been welcomed by the Australian people.

Dr Wright says that more than 70 percent of Australians recently surveyed believe that “immigrants make Australia more open to ideas and cultures. Over 50 percent believe that immigration benefits the economy. Similar surveys in the United Kingdom and Germany reflected a largely negative response to immigration.

On the downside, he also says that temporary backpacker type work visas have led to exploitation and require greater regulation.

“For example, if there is to be a visa designed to meet the needs of farmers that’s absolutely fine, but it’s got to be done on a more regulated basis,” he says. “People coming here need to have their rights protected and they can’t be vulnerable to the extent that they currently are to mistreatment and underpayment.”

Dr Wright also expresses concern about the interaction between skills based immigration policies and policies affecting training programs.

“We’ve seen a large expansion of visas and at the same time, essentially independent of that development, we’ve had a complete change to education and training policies in ways that have made employers a lot less inclined to invest in their workforce.”

“Rather than being treated as two separate policy areas, governments have got to look at immigration and education and training as complementary arrangements for meeting workforce needs and to think about how those arrangements work together more effectively,” Dr Wright concluded.

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