Skilled migrant shortage a sham: chief economist

silhouettes of migrants and an australian flag

Government claims that skills shortages require massive increases in the skilled migrant intake do not stand up to scrutiny, says MacroBusiness chief economist Leith van Onselen.

In his briefing note commissioned by Sustainable Population Australia (SPA), Mr van Onselen says there is little evidence of skills shortages in Australia. Certainly not enough to warrant employer groups and some government members angling to ramp up skilled migration to as much as 400,000 per year.

Of the more than 670 occupations listed as eligible for a ‘skilled’ visa, there is no requirement that any of them actually have a skills shortage.

"Moreover, half of the ‘skilled migrant’ intake is not actually skilled," claims SPA.

"Primary applicants make up only around half of the skilled stream and 30 per cent of non-humanitarian migration (including both skilled and family categories), with most of the remainder being partners and dependent children."

Mr van Onselen says Australia’s skilled migration program has been corrupted, arguing that while it was once a method for complementing the employment of Australian workers, it is now being used to create competition with Australian workers and lower their wages on a massive scale.

“Immigration is being used to suppress wages and claims to the contrary from business lobbies do not withstand scrutiny,” he says.

“Whereas supply shortages of everything, from petrol to food to desirable property, lead to soaring prices, no such wage growth is seen in Australia in response to claimed shortages.

“Allowing the mass importation of foreign workers circumvents the ordinary functioning of the labour market by enabling employers to source cheaper foreign workers in lieu of raising wages, as well as avoiding the need for training.

“High levels of immigration in the decade pre-COVID-19 contributed to stagnant incomes growth, lower incomes and employment prospects for both skilled and unskilled Australians, and detracted from the living standards of many Australian working families.”

SPA national president Jenny Goldie says the myth of ‘skills shortages’ had been pushed for decades by employer groups such as the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Despite decades of strong skilled migration whereby literally millions of foreign workers were imported into Australia, industry and the federal government continue to make identical claims about chronic skills shortages,” says Ms Goldie.

“These claims are no longer credible.

"Australians understand that rapid population growth has not been in their interests. It is time to rethink Big Australia."

How do you feel about 'Big Australia'? 


We should keep the so called skilled migrants out and give every Australian a job. If they do not want to work, stop all benefits. 

Over 50 years ago it was pointed out that instead of importing so many skilled workers we should be training our own workers with the skills required. 

Just now many more lawyers, accountants, etc do we really need? How many of those could have been trained in the skills that are supposedly needed.

It is a feature of Conservative Government to create a pool of unemployed, or underemployed, to keep wages low. The end result being a stagnant economy as the ordinary worker has insufficient disposable income to spend in a way that keeps the economy ticking over nicely.   

Dead right Tom. We certainly don't need more lawyers - apart from those representing the victims of wage theft, robodebt etc - they are a pretty unproductive lot. Australia could do with a lot fewer accountants (and lawyers) if there were a limit to the amount of cash the very wealthy can spend to minimise their tax. At the moment the sky is the limit. 

Train Australian people, not overseas workers. We do not need more immigration as it will change the Australian Way of Life forever. Unemployed Aussies should be told to seek a traineeship, employment or lose most of the government benefits.  Employers should also be more involved in giving more access to traineeships. 

.... and what exactly is "the Australian way of life"?  

We came to this country in 1949 and "we" only got in because "we" included 2 young sons. The Government of the day wanted workers and future workers so "we" fitted the bill.

We worked hard, married & produced more kids to lessen the work load of the population.

I don't believe the Government of the day have not kept up to date with workers requirements in this new age of work from home, be computer literate, don't go out of their comfort zone so basically, don't try anything beneath their perceived level of work life balance.

We do not need more skilled workers, just workers who are willing to knuckle down and prove they are worth keeping here to start their new lives in this great country.

SPA is correct. There needs to be a verified skills shortage before visas are granted. The people receiving visas should have verified skills. This program is barefaced wage suppression by the capitalists running the federal government. 


Is it because our youth are not willing to learn a trade or skill?



Whatever  happened to TAFE?  Having a trade has been degraded and looked down upon and a university education paraded as the only gold standard for a worthwhile career. Yes we desperately need more lawyers, fine arts and anthropology graduates for what?  TAFE which has trained hundreds of thousands of valuable tradespeople and provided numerous adults with further value adding skills has been pillaged by successive government and replaced with private training schemes, many of which were found to operate corruptly wasting $billions of tax payers money which should have been spent on TAFE.

If there is a shortage of skilled workers it's the fault of government and industry, the latter which knows their future skills requirements. Every year we have thousand of school leavers wanting a worthwhile career which are being replaced by migrants. This is not only a betrayal of workers, it's disgraceful negligence on the part of government.

We have a housing shortage and rental crisis right now so where are these skilled migrants going to live? Is the government also planning to bring in hundreds of thousands more 'tenants' to further boost the income of it's property tycoon mates too?


Mondo, spot on mate, you should run as an independent in the next election.

"Whereas supply shortages of everything, from petrol to food to desirable property, lead to soaring prices, no such wage growth is seen in Australia in response to claimed shortages." says it all. If some one wants to bring in a skilled migrant then ensure they also fund training places to bring 5 residents to same level. 

Speaking of elections -  I attended our local council office to pre poll because I didn't want to stand in a long queue on election day, this Saturday. I was called up to a desk by a lady sitting at a computer. She asked me my name and address and proceeded to mark me off the list, I don't even know if she did this correctly because I couldn't see the screen.When I went outside I spoke to a friend who was there for the same reason and she said she didn't feel easy about how this was done. I then spoke to one of the scrutineers and told her what happened and she said "Did they ask you for identification and I said No". She said this is why it should be made legal to carry a I.D. card with photo. I wonder if this will ever happen.? We have to have a photo I.D. for a Passport and Driver's License and I.D. to enter an RSL or Football Club, then why not an Australia Card?

Gosh Hola that is awful. 

When we have been in NSW when we go to have lunch at one of the Football Clubs we have to show our driving license from WA to get it!

I am not sure if you went to vote in the Council Election or you wanted your name taken off the List?

Shocking system Hola, pity you can't get a group together and have a go at the person/persons responsible for this farce.  Disgraceful.

How be someone else does the same as Hola and someone takes photos during it??

Once bitten twice shy!

I rang the NSW Electrol Commission to complain about the farce of the voting system.  The lady there said when she voted she too didn't have to show any form of identity. Later on today (Saturday) I was listening to Chris Smith  on radio who was explaining that he was told we don't have to show any form of identity for Local elections???? I only wish I had used my friend's name and she mine at the time of voting and then rang the electrol commission and told them what we had done, I suppose we would have had a hefy fine served on us. But I just wanted to prove this voting system is a farce. 


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