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Migration Halted: COVID-19 & the Australian Economy

Migration Halted: COVID-19 & the Australian Economy

Experts have expressed growing concern over how the Australian economy will recover from the coronavirus pandemic, as immigration comes to a standstill due to travel restrictions and worldwide border closures.

According to federal government statistics, almost 300,000 temporary visa holders have left Australia since the beginning of the year and there are estimates that the country will miss out on a staggering 240,000 would-be migrants by the end of 2020.

Australia has experienced continued economic growth over the span of nearly three decades, much of which is a result to the country’s immigration program. According to Liz Allen from the Australian National University, Australia’s ageing population and increased numbers of retirees means that we need to “fill in the gaps” by looking to migrants and their invaluable contributions to the workforce and beyond.

“We need immigration to survive this next stage of our future”, says Dr Allen.

This notion is echoed by researchers who say that the drop in migrant intake could cause a “demographic ripple effect” which will have lasting effects long after the pandemic has passed, in which case migrants will be looked to as Australia rebuilds.

On the 2019-20 permanent migration program, a spokesperson for acting immigration minister Alan Tudge said that “it will be lower than we envisaged given our borders are closed to all but Australian citizens and permanent residents”, however also said that it was still too early to say what the final outcome will be.

The drastic fall in migration have economists predicting a prolonged recovery period for the country, as long as “several years” according to Grattan Institute CEO John Daley. Adding that “real economic growth in Australia over the last couple of years has been around 2 to 2.5 per cent. Of that, almost one per cent has simply been the effect of migration”.

Commsec senior economist Ryan Felsman said that the longer borders are closed, the longer it will take for Australia to spring back and that even just a 10 per cent reduction in migration numbers could create major consequences in terms of furthering the downturn.

With international travel restrictions not being lifted for at least three to four months, as outlined by chief medical officer Brendan Murphy, the economic future of Australia is being deeply contemplated.

In the era of COVID-19, temporary visa holders are among one of the most vulnerable with many experiencing loss of income due to social distancing measures and no means of returning home as borders close. States such as Victoria, Tasmania, and the ACT have enacted their own measures to support migrants. In these uncertain times, it is important to remember that migrants have been contributing to the steady growth of the country and to provide the necessary support as we navigate the road ahead, which is continuously evolving. In the words of Dr Allen,

“Migrants helped us build this nation … and they will feature right at the core of Australia’s economic rebuild”.

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