Temporary visas must respond to economic conditions

The bleating over the Morrison Government’s call for temporary visa holders that cannot support themselves to “go home” continues, with ‘Big Australia’ mouthpiece for the ANU, Liz Allen, claiming temporary migrants are vital to help the economy through the coronavirus, while immediately contradicting herself by arguing they should receive welfare support:

She said Australia “desperately needed” migrants to stay and contribute to maintaining the economy and, in time, rebuilding after the pandemic passes.
“But the lack of social and economic supports could see migrants leave the country in pursuit of better options,” she said…
“Whether we like it or not, admit it or not, Australia still has a problem with white Australia policy sentiments,” she said.
“Australia still has white Australia hang-ups: many people in Australia were raised during the white Australia policy, raised by those who grew up under the white Australia policy, or socialised into the false notion Australia is a white nation with a white history.
“In times of fear, people tend to want to protect their own and fear the other — migrants bear the brunt of this.”

This follows similar calls from unions:

“Unions NSW is spearheading a national campaign made up of 124 unions, migrant groups, religious groups and charities calling on the government to include temporary visa holders in the JobKeeper wage subsidy program.
Some of the signatories include the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the National Retail Association, as well as the Islamic Council of Victoria and the Uniting Church…
“They have contributed to this country, they have contributed to the economic growth of this country, they have paid taxes they have contributed to the social community in which we live.”
“[The government] have to take responsibility and expand JobKeeper.”

Architect of Australia’s mass immigration policy, Abul Rizvi, also made similar arguments last week:

“Current Government policy appears designed to simultaneously achieve negative population growth, exacerbating the recession and making recovery much more difficult.
…a policy to force net migration down faster will make recovery all the more difficult…
Recovery from that decline can be assisted if the Government does not insist on forcing Australia to experience negative net migration.”

The interesting thing about these calls to provide welfare to temporary migrants to stay in Australia is that it completely contradicts the initial purpose of Australia’s temporary migration program.

This program was explicitly developed to help plug “skills shortages” across the economy.  They were also marketed as giving the economy flexibility: the migrant take could quickly expand when skills were needed but then in times of strife those on temporary visas could return to their home countries. Temporary visas were supposed to act as a shock absorber for the Australian economy.


Now that the Australian economy is facing its biggest decline since the Great depression, and unemployment is surging (see above chart), it is time for this “flexibility” to be allowed to take effect and a large chunk of the 2.3 million temporary migrants in Australia to return home.


The same should apply for the permanent migrant intake, which has set aside 108,000 places for so-called ‘skilled’ workers:


With skills shortages virtually non existent across the economy, there is zero rationale in maintaining such a strong permanent migrant program.

Sending large numbers of temporary migrants home, and halving the permanent migrant intake back to historical levels, is the only way to better balance labour supply with demand, as well as safeguard living standards.

To keep immigration artificially high will only worsen the unemployment queues and further depress wages.

From Macrobusiness

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