As Australia begins ‘post-coronavirus’ recovery, there has been concerns raised over the future of the migration program.
Due to the widespread travel bans, Australia’s overseas migration intake is expected to fall by more than 85 per cent, when compared to 2018-19 levels.
“On the 2018-19 year for net overseas migration, we’re expecting just over a 30 per cent fall in 2019-20, the current financial year. And in 2020-21, an 85 per cent fall-off those 2018-19 levels as well.”
– Prime Minister, Scott Morrison
Australia as a whole is home to more than 2.1 million temporary visa holders, including working holiday-makers, international students and short-term workers, and more than 1.78 million permanent residents.
How will the coronavirus crisis impact the Australian economy?
In recent years, Australia has experienced a population growth of approximately 1.5 per cent. This population growth has accounted for most of Australia’s economic growth, with the migration program being a driving force behind this.
According to Grattan Institute economist, John Daley, migrants have contributed to the boost in Australia’s economic position, by around one per cent per year.
With 570,000 international students, who inject approximately $39 billion into the Australian economy each year, it is clear that the international education sector represents a significant contribution to economic growth in Australia.
The hit to migration during the pandemic is expected to have a huge impact upon the economic recovery efforts made in Australia.
“To come out of that recession or depression is made all the more difficult if net migration falls.”
– Former Deputy Secretary of the Immigration Department, Abul Rizvi.
Over the last decade, more than half the nation’s population has come from overseas migration, with the skilled program being a key driver of the economy.
Just one year without migration in Australia could result in economic and social catastrophe. Without migration, country town populations would decline and the growth rates of capital cities would reduce to near zero.
The Morrison government has outlined that they will restore overseas travel and mass migration in the final stages of coronavirus recovery, making it a low priority during the nation’s recovery.
What does this mean for temporary visa holders?
During the coronavirus pandemic, it has been made very clear that temporary visa holders have fewer rights than those with permanent residency.
Many New Zealanders and Permanent residents have access to unconditional work rights and are able to receive government payments such as JobSeeker and JobKeeper.
Many temporary visa holders do not have access to financial assistance and are currently struggling to support themselves amid mass job loss.
Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has advised temporary visa holders to consider returning to their home country, if they can no longer support themselves financially.
The Federal Government has made some changes and now allows those that have been in Australia for more than twelve months to access their superannuation.
Temporary visa holders are expected to support themselves, but some may still be eligible for special financial hardship payments.
FECCA CEO Mohammad Al-Khafaji has called for faster processing of applications, so that temporary migrants that have applied to become permanent residents can access financial support within Australia.
“We need everyone to get the message that they are welcome in Australia and we need them more than ever to contribute to the economy.”
– Mohammad Al-Khafaji (FECCA CEO)
In recent years, Australia’s migration program has been more dependent upon temporary visa holders and has seen a decline in the number of permanent visas.
Last year, the maximum number of permanent visas was cut from 190,000 to 160,000 in a bid to reduce congestion in major cities.
Even though there are restrictions on the number of permanent visa grants, Australia allows an uncapped number of temporary migrants to work, live or study in the country. In the last eight years, the number of temporary migrants has increased from 1.6 million to 2.4 million.
A representative of the Labor Party, Kristina Keneally has called for a reduction in migration intake of temporary visa holders upon reopening the borders.
Kristina Keneally believes Australia’s reliance upon immigration to fuel the economy is ‘lazy’ and that there needs to be more focus upon providing opportunities to permanent residents and citizens of Australia.
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