Increase in skilled migration needed, report finds

Date: May 24, 2012

There is a growing need for skilled migrants to fill positions that there are not enough Australians with the right qualifications to carry out, a new report has found.

Compiled by accountancy firm PKF, the annual Business and Population Monitor from last year identified that population growth was declining at a time when the need for workers was accelerating.

However, the effects of this trend are unlikely to come to the fore until the latter half of this year once the economy starts to gain pace - potentially leading to a rise in business for migration lawyers.

Since the last monitor, annual employment growth has slowed significantly in most states and territories - in some instances, it has even fallen into a negative position.

In response to this trend, small and medium-sized enterprises are expected to respond to increased demand for staff by ensuring their existing workforce is able to work for longer.

By doing this, they can delay the need to take on extra staff and when the time comes, they can rely on migrant workers to fill the gaps.

There will, however, be a number of problems due to a lack of investment in business, which PFK believes could hinder the chances of economic recovery.

The report identifies that overseas migration will play an important role in driving Australia's economy forward and believes that national population growth will increase by 1.7 per cent next year.

Overseas migration was affected by the global financial crisis due to fears over job losses - in 2008 before the crisis began, annual net overseas migration had peaked at 316,000.

Matt Field, PKF's national director of enterprise advisers, said: "With the first of the baby boomers turning 65, the 65-and-over age bracket has become the fastest growing section of the population. This is expected to persist."

He emphasised that the weakest population growth is expected to be among the under-19 age group, while slight expansion will be seen among those up to the age of 14.

"Ultimately, workers need to come from somewhere, and with population growth continuing to slow and an increasingly aged workforce, skilled migration could prove the answer, as long as Australian firms are willing and able to attract it to their workplace," he added.

A recent report in The Australian claimed that health restrictions for immigrants may be relaxed so more people with medical conditions and disabilities can enter the country.