Australia’s “needlessly complex” should be revamped to ensure the nation can attract the workers it needs to sustain a strong labour market, a new report has found.
The Deloitte Access Economics report, released on Sunday, found Australia’s labour market was a stand-out success during the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced by the jobless rate falling to a near 50-year low 3.4 per cent in July.
Also positive was the labour force participation rate, which now hovers around a record high at 66.4 per cent.
Report lead author David Rumbens said government spending had buoyed the labour market but warned it was now largely up to the private sector to keep it going.
Mr Rumbens said pandemic-era border closures combined with a tight labour market meant there were now more job vacancies than unemployed people.
“Net overseas migration was positive for the first time since the onset of COVID,” Mr Rumbens said.
“More than net 29,000 people arrived in the December 2021 quarter, although that only unwinds around 26 per cent of the net 113,000 people lost to overseas migration over the previous 18 months.”
With skilled migration at a fraction of pre-pandemic levels, Deloitte partner Fiona Webb urged Australia to show it was “open for business” by cutting red tape.
This was in the context, the report found, of the economy shifting to a more skilled and knowledge-based workforce, with jobs in the sector forecast to grow around 2.1 per cent or 39,300 workers, yearly between now and June 2032.
“Alongside policy to ensure we are developing the necessary skills for the future within Australia, there needs to be a focus on overhauling our needlessly complex skilled migration system to ensure we can also attract workers with the skills we need,” Ms Webb said.
“The highest order priority is to clearly signal to the world that Australia is open for business. Our pandemic-era border policies created a lingering level of uncertainty among potential skilled migrants.
“They want to know they will be able to get in and out of the country without complication and have greater certainty about longer-term options to remain in Australia – that is, pathways to permanent residency.”
The report also urged Australia to expand its humanitarian migration program, describing the long-term benefits of doing so as “profound” for both economic and social metrics.