Australia lost around 500,000 temporary migrants over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report by the Grattan Institute.
The report, titled Migrants in the Australian workforce, shows there were about 1.5 million temporary migrants in Australia as of January 2022. In 2019, the number of temporary migrants in Australia reached almost 2 million.
The 500,000 migrants who are no longer in Australia are mostly international students and working holiday makers.
At present, there are around 335,000 international students in Australia – roughly half as many as in 2019.
The number of working holiday makers has had an even steeper fall, with about 19,000 remaining in Australia – around 85 per cent less than in 2019.
Due to border closures and travel restrictions, Australia’s temporary skilled migrant population has fallen by around 20 per cent. Seeing as Australia’s temporary migration program is uncapped, this decrease has badly hurt local businesses.
Before the pandemic started, around 17 per cent of all workers in Australia’s hospitality sector were temporary migrants. The majority of these migrants were international students who worked part-time as waiters and kitchen hands.
With demand for these services remaining high, employers in Australia’s hospitality sector are crying out for workers.
Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveals more than 30 per cent of Australian hospitality businesses advertised for more workers in February – a significant rise compared to 15 per cent in February 2020.
Moreover, farmers in Australia are struggling from a lack of working holiday makers, who account for around 4 per cent of the country’s agricultural workforce.
With calls for increasing skilled migration growing louder by the day, Australia’s federal government has implemented several short-term measures to attract international students and working holiday makers back to the country.
For instance, Australia is now refunding application fees for such visas, and the 40-hours per fortnight working hours cap for international students has also been removed.
With borders now reopened, it is expected that the number of returning international students and working holiday makers will gradually gain momentum.
Australia’s Treasury forecasts the net overseas migration to increase in the coming years, with 41,000 people expected to arrive in 2021-22, 180,000 in 2022-23 and 213,000 in 2023-24.