Australian businesses in one industry are struggling to get back on their feet and are desperately calling out for workers.
Aussie businesses are struggling to get back on their feet following the Covid-19 pandemic and are in desperate need of migrant workers, according to the nation’s largest employer group.
The federal government’s latest economic update indicates Australia’s financial recovery from the health crisis will rely heavily on overseas migration.
But the Australian Industry Group – which represents private business in sectors ranging from manufacturing, construction and transport – says the current migration cap is too low to allow businesses to bounce back.
In a submission to the Home Affairs Department, AI Group chief executive Innes Willox urged the government to increase the migration cap by 30,000 people for 2022.
“Ai Group was disappointed with the reduction to a maximum of 160,000 places in the annual permanent migration that was in place for 2020,” Mr Willox said.
“This reduction was not warranted, and despite the barriers to reaching this ceiling, we believe it should be returned to 190,000 places in the 2022/23 federal budget.”
The federal government’s latest budget update indicates Australia’s economic recovery from Covid-19 will rely heavily on overseas migration.
Australia’s engineering firms are expected to be particularly hard-hit by the shortage of skilled migrant workers as the demand for engineers outstrips the number of domestic engineering graduates.
Without the usual stream of around 6000 overseas undergraduate engineering students who are able to work for two years in Australia after graduation, the industry is expected to suffer.
“Engineering is an example of a sector that we will rely on during the Covid economic recovery but which is experiencing ongoing and significant skill shortages,” Mr Willox said.
“It is estimated that over the next few years Australia will need 11,000 new engineers annually, which is around 2400 more than the domestic undergraduate engineering completions each year.”
Aussie engineering firms are expected to be particularly hard-hit by the shortage of skilled migrant workers.
The push to increase the intake of migrant workers comes as Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar is set to release an updated population statement on Monday.
The release is expected to reveal a slow return to pre-pandemic population levels, with population growth falling to its lowest level in Australia in more than 100 years.
Mr Sukkar said the fall was largely caused by “restrictions on international borders and the impact on net overseas migration – typically the main source of Australia’s population growth”.
Australia’s low population growth is linked to restrictions on international borders and the impact on net overseas migration during the Covid-19 pandemic.
But Mr Willox said increasing the sheer number of migrants would not be enough, urging the government to return its skilled worker quota to two-thirds of the migration intake.
A recent survey by AI Group found that 73 per cent of Australian businesses expected to have difficulty in finding and/or retaining skilled labour in 2022.
“While the target of 160,000 permanent migrants was met in 2020/2021, only half were in the skilled stream, a significant reduction from the usual 70 per cent,” Mr Willox said.
Innes Willox urged the government to increase Australia’s migration cap from 160,000 to 190,000. AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
A boost to both the migration cap and skilled worker quota will be essential to the recovery of Aussie business in the post-pandemic world, according to the AI Group.
“The benefits of migration – and especially permanent and long-term skilled migration – to national per capita output and income present a compelling argument for restoring the annual migration intake to its previous cap of 190,000,” Mr Willox said.
“As Australia moves beyond the recovery period, following the Covid-19 pandemic, any further retreat from globalisation and from the global skills market will be even less appropriate.”
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