Due to the global financial crisis and amid fears the economy will slow, Australia’s intake of migrants will be significantly cut next year.
Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, said the intake was closely linked to the state of the economy and the demand for labour.
“If there is a drop in demand for skills and labour in the economy, you would expect that you would run a smaller migration program,” Mr Evans said. “I’d envisage certainly that the migration program for next year would be smaller than this year.”
Senator Evans stressed no decision to cut the intake and by what per cent will be set in stone until the lead up to next year’s budget in May.
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, first flagged the possibility of cutting the migrant quota two weeks ago.
“We adjust (the migrant quota) according to economic circumstances,” Mr Rudd said on 9 October.
More than 200,000 migrants are entering Australia annually after the Government increased the intake by 20 per cent this year. A further 110, 000 people are arriving on temporary work visas.
Employer-driven migration schemes, such as the 457 temporary skilled worker program, could start to slow with the diminishing labour market demand.
“It stands to reason that if economic activity was to come off, demand from employers for temporary labour was to come off, then the numbers for the 457 scheme would come off,” Senator Evans said. “You’d expect there’d be a direct relationship.”
Global economic downturn would affect people’s ability to travel, resulting in a reduction in other forms of migration, such as the working holiday program.
Amid growing fear that local workers might be laid off before temporary skilled workers, who in many cases are paid less, Senator Evans said the Government will be putting Australia jobs first.
“People on temporary work visas in this country are that – temporary, here to fill the skills vacancies in the Australian economy that exist,” Senator Evans said.
Senator Evans stressed the 457 program exists to supplement the local labour force, not undercut it.
Senator Evans said he believed Australia would continue to run large migration programs for the next 30 to 40 years.