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Migrant growth mirrored by GDP performance lift

MIGRANTS, especially skilled migrants, are good for WA, providing a much-needed boost to the domestic economy.

And while an element of the fear factor remains – that migrants take jobs and are a burden on the economy – economists argue that these claims are not backed up by the facts and that all migrants have a net positive effect on the economy.

Last calendar year, Australia took around 133,700 overseas migrants, representing 54 per cent of Australia’s population growth.

Of this figure, 17,307 came to WA with the overall total representing the largest intake since the 1988-89 calendar year.

This State has about 10 per cent of Australia’s overall population but takes around 13 per cent of all migrants and around 30 per cent of all business migrants.

And despite Australia’s ageing population, WA’s population remains younger than the national average.

But this is not enough, according to some economists who believe Australia, and WA, requires a higher population, particularly of skilled migrants.

Historically, high periods of Australian GDP growth have been linked to period of high immigration.

However, Australia’s economy is small by international standards due to our relatively small population.

People drive the domestic economy and a strong domestic economy can translate to international competitiveness.

Immigration has historically been more important to WA than to other States because of WA’s low population base.

However, WA has started to lose people to other States in recent years – a trend somewhat offset by a net inflow of overseas migrants, which is responsible for maintaining our population growth.

CCIWA chief economist Nicky Cusworth said this trend was opposite to what the State experienced in the 1980s.

“The data shows a net outflow of population to interstate migrants that is more than offset by a larger number of migrants from overseas,” she said.

“Net migration to WA is still positive.”

However, Ms Cusworth said the net inflow of interstate migrants was not enough to offset the net outflow of interstate migrants WA had experienced.

“Fifteen quarters in a row we’ve had a net outflow of interstate migrants,” she said.

However, Ms Cusworth said while there were no statistics available on the type of people leaving the State, WA was experiencing demand for people with particular skills.

“We are starting to experience quite marked skill shortages that are partly linked to recovery in resources investments.”

Ms Cusworth said these shortages included occupations such as welders, boiler makers and fitters and that employers were starting to look interstate and overseas to source these types of employees.

“Even if we aren’t getting ‘economically valuable’ migrants, all migrants are net positive contributors to the fiscal balance and the economy generally. There are both costs and benefits to migration,” she said.

“All migrants are positive, even those picked on humanitarian and social grounds, but the ones who are picked for their economic value, such as skilled and business migrants, tend to make a bigger return and it happens faster.”

Ms Cusworth said studies indicated that people’s common fears about migrants were not backed up by the facts.

Migrants did not drive down wages and in fact helped create jobs, she said.

“Migrants contribute more in taxes than they cost the government and they generate more jobs than they take. But that said, we need to be aware of the limits,” Ms Cusworth said.

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