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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Australia to reduce migration intake by 50% in the next two years

The plan entails a substantial reduction in the migration intake, with a goal of slashing it by around 50% within the next two years.

Australia, known for its diverse landscapes and vibrant culture, has unveiled a bold 10-year immigration strategy to address what officials have deemed a “broken” immigration system. The plan, announced on Monday, entails a substantial reduction in the migration intake, with a goal of slashing it by around 50% within the next two years. This move is intended to mitigate the strain on housing and infrastructure caused by record-high migration levels. Despite the adjustments, challenges persist in attracting skilled workers to fill critical gaps in the labour market.

Assessing the Broken System

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil, during a media briefing, expressed concern over the state of the immigration system, describing it as having been left “in tatters” by the previous government. A recent review echoed this sentiment, labelling the system as “badly broken” and in urgent need of “major reform.” The identified issues included unnecessary complexity, slow processes, and inefficiency.

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Immediate Reduction Targets

The centrepiece of the new strategy involves a rapid reduction in migration intake. The ambitious plan aims to bring down the annual intake to 250,000 by June 2025, representing a significant departure from the previous year’s record of 510,000 arrivals. Minister O’Neil underscored the urgency of “bringing numbers back under control” to address the strain on essential resources.

Impact on Students and Low-Skilled Workers

To achieve these targets, the government plans to tighten visa rules, particularly for international students and low-skilled workers. With 650,000 foreign students currently in Australia, the strategy aims to toughen English-language requirements and increase scrutiny for those seeking a second visa. This move is intended to alleviate pressure on housing and infrastructure while ensuring that migrants contribute meaningfully to the Australian economy.

Challenges in Attracting Skilled Workers

Despite the adjustments to reduce overall migration, Australia is grappling with a persistent challenge—how to attract and retain skilled workers to address labour market gaps. The government’s plan acknowledges this struggle and emphasises the importance of refining visa pathways for migrants with “specialist” or “essential” skills. The goal is to not only meet immediate labour demands but also enhance the chances of these skilled workers obtaining permanent residency.

Political Back-and-Forth

The proposed changes have sparked political debate, with opposition migration spokesman Dan Tehan criticising the government for being “too slow to adjust migration policies” in the post-pandemic era. Tehan’s remarks highlight the delicate balance policymakers face in responding to dynamic economic and social challenges.

Public Perception

The declining popularity of the Labor government since its election has led to increased pressure to temporarily reduce migration, particularly to address the ongoing housing crisis. However, the Business Council of Australia has countered this perspective, arguing that migrants are being unfairly scapegoated for issues stemming from inadequate investment in affordable housing and poor policy decisions.

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As Australia embarks on this ambitious 10-year immigration strategy, the nation finds itself at a crucial juncture. Balancing the immediate need to address housing and infrastructure challenges with the long-term goal of attracting skilled workers requires nuanced policy decisions. The coming years will reveal the success and impact of these measures, shedding light on Australia’s ability to navigate its immigration crossroads.