Benefit of having Skilled Migrants: Hidden in Plain Sight
Focusing on skilled migration has allowed Australia’s educational standard of the workforce to rise rapidly, according to an OECD study. There has been a much recent political debate in Australia regarding immigration. It has been a popular ground for political debate, with both the current and former Prime Ministers getting involved. It all started in February, when former Prime Minister Tony Abbott called for a reduction in the annual number of immigrants, claiming that cutting the number of immigrants seeking pastures new in Australia would improve the quality of living for the locals. However, this claim was vehemently opposed by numerous fronts, including former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as well as a number of leading business bodies and unions, who formed a rare alliance in order to retain the current immigration policy and numbers. Now, the case for Australia’s migrant intake to remain the same gets even further backing by the results of an OECD study, which shows that the educational standard of Australia’s workforce is rising rapidly, with both migrants and new entrants to the labor force having higher educational standards than their retiree counterparts. Illustrated by numbers, this result is even more striking. Between 2005 – 2015, the number of people in the workforce with tertiary educational qualifications saw a 37 percent increase, which is more than the 21 percent increase seen by the United States. Furthermore, this increase in Australia’s tertiary educated workforce was more than three times the 11 percent increase in the workforce overall. This analysis shows that migration lifts the overall education standard of the workforce while having only a temporary effect on the age profile of the workforce. Win-win. At present, the educational profile of Australia’s workforce is polarized. Skilled migrants seeking career opportunities have higher qualifications as opposed to refugees and family reunion migrants. This makes the case for skilled migrants even stronger, as the OECD names Australia as the only country where migrants have higher average educational standards compared to local employees. The numbers speak for themselves: 62 percent of recent migrants have tertiary education, while the same can be said for a lesser 55 percent of the young, new entrants. Consequently, in the decade leading to 2015, Australia’s tertiary educated labor force rose by 40 percent. In comparison, the United States saw a 23 percent increase, while Europe was further back at 16 percent. According to the study, Australia has been the most marked among those with lower educational standards. The aforementioned decade saw the retirement of almost one million lesser-educated members of the workforce, meaning the number of such workers dropped by almost 60 percent. With their replacements being skilled migrants with higher educational standards, this has resulted in a marked improvement in the overall educational standard of the workforce. Hence, apart from ensuring that having skilled migrants is more boon than bane, it sends a clear challenge to Tony Abbott’s proposal: Good luck changing the immigration policy!