The government’s attack on Australia’s temporary skilled immigration program this week risks undermining confidence in one of the tenets of Australia’s prosperity. Its claims that skilled temporary immigrants are elbowing Australians out of jobs and dragging down local wages and rest on primitive economic fallacies and display blithe disregard for the facts.
Far from “taking our jobs”, new workers add both to the productive capacity of an economy and to its demand for goods and services too, ensuring no net loss of economic opportunities for existing residents. Once foreign workers arrive, they need haircuts, clothes, and food, spurring demand for workers in other parts of the economy.
And free market absorbs new workers quickly, as the sudden return of millions of troops en masse to Western economies after the Second World War without so much as a hiccough in national unemployment rates clearly demonstrated.
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Amidst the hype of an election year, Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor’s announcement of restrictions to the 457 visa program for importing temporary workers, is a welcome focus on the most important issue for Australians – jobs.
The news that the issuing of 457 visas will be tightened, more steps will be taken to make sure imported workers are paid at market rates, and authorities will have more powers against employers who routinely abuse 457 visas, is a long overdue start to reforming the system.
However there still seems to be a reluctance from politicians to tackle the uncontrolled growth of 457 visas and admit what it means for local workers looking for jobs.