25 million population – Australians need coordination and confidence
"With Australia hitting the 25 million population mark on August 7 it is a good time to consider both the benefits of our population growth and whether we are planning properly for the future," said Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox.
"Being better informed about the positive economic and social impacts of our growing population should help address concerns some have about a bigger Australia.
"The Migration Council of Australia estimates that by 2050 migration will have added:
- 15.7% to our workforce participation rate;
- 21.9 % to after-tax real wages for low skilled workers;
- 5.9 % in GDP per capita growth; and
- By 2050, the gain in employment of 45% outstrips the population gain of 37 %.
"Migration will ensure Australia remains a highly skilled nation, especially with the contribution made by the high proportion of skilled migrants in our annual intake which is critical to ensuring we meet our skills needs.
"The direct influence of population growth on boosting our economic growth can be seen clearly in economic data. In the first quarter of 2018, real GDP per capita accelerated to 1.5% p.a., its best quarterly rate since 2011. The difference between this per capita GDP growth and the headline growth rate (3.1% p.a. in Q1 2018) represents the contribution of population growth to GDP, output and incomes.
"Further, as the Productivity Commission has found, continuing Net Overseas Migration at the long-term historical average is projected to increase GDP per person by around 7 per cent (equivalent to around $7000 per person in 2013-14 dollars) in 2060 relative to a zero NOM scenario. Without this growth we would be in much poorer economic shape.
"In preparing for the future we should be confident that in many ways we already have strong planning spread between governments at all levels. We have infrastructure planning agencies and planning for education and health and we have government research that contributes to that planning including the five-yearly Intergenerational Report, ABS data and Productivity Commission analysis.
"No doubt this sort of planning can be improved and there is certainly a need to better plan for the workforce of the future. Our VET system is poorly funded and is suffering from reputational damage from policy experimentation. Both VET and Higher Education continue to fail in delivering sufficient skills. This will only intensify as large scale infrastructure projects and defence spending ramp up. We need workforce planning that takes into account net population inflow, its composition, evolving market requirements and education and training.
"Planning could also be helped by improvements to the Intergenerational Report. Currently its preoccupations are mainly fiscal, with a focus on revenue and spending trends and pressures. It also has some high-level thinking on the directions of the economy over the projection period. It could be expanded to have a broader remit and perhaps that would make it more interesting, more widely read and a better population planning tool for governments.
"It would also be worth having another look at reforming our Federation. State and Federal cooperation is critical to future planning and delivering infrastructure and services to meet the needs of our growing population and there should be a more mature discussion of the division of responsibilities and approaches to finances.
"Whoever the 25-millionth Australian born today may be, they will on average live longer, eat better and with the right infrastructure planning get to work faster than the previous generations. There is also no reason to believe that with good policy they will also inherit an environment in better shape than it is today," Willox said.
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