The return of migrant workers: preparing now for Australia’s post-pandemic priority

Migrant workers Australia

Among the ongoing debate and discussion over COVID-19 policies and restrictions around the country, one major issue appears to be gathering the attention it deserves – the critical role skilled migrant workers must play in the future rebuild of Australia’s economy.

It’s not a question of whether Australia wants foreign workers to return in the same numbers. It’s a question of how seriously Australia needs foreign workers to return in the same numbers or even greater. Put simply, the nation cannot afford the alternative.

Economic impact of a fall in migration

Let’s dig a little deeper. Realistically, international border closures could remain in place for many months. Australia’s migration program is expected to drop dramatically over the next year. In a recent article in The Australian, political reporter Olivia Caisley states, ”With international border closures expected to be in place for at least another three to four months, the government expects net migration to fall to 36,000 in 2020-21, the lowest number in 40 years.

If migration numbers were to remain at such a reduced level over an extended period, it could significantly and adversely impact our economic ‘bounce back’ potential in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Many economists agree that migrant workers contribute enormously to Australia’s overall economic growth, which in turn leads to a net increase in the new jobs available to local workers as well. In other words, the migration cycle benefits everyone equally.

In the same article, Caisley quotes Deloitte economist Chris Richardson, who recently stated: “Reducing migration numbers would be bad economics”, while “it was wrong to suggest more foreign workers would keep Australians out of work.” She further quotes Richardson’s assertion that, “When our migration rates were highest, we actually had our lowest unemployment rates.” Later in that article, she again quotes Richardson: “The smart response would be to get young skilled migrants coming to Australia to help raise living standards here, as well as those of the new arrivals.

It will therefore be imperative for the nation to reopen its borders to foreign workers, especially in areas of skills shortages such as healthcare and childcare. The ‘skilled’ stream accounts for around 60 per cent of Australia’s permanent migration program. Australia’s “world-leading” response to COVID-19 also makes this country a valuable global asset and puts us firmly on the map of desirable locations for skilled international workers.


A proactive approach to future migration

If we assume that Australia’s foreign worker policies will eventually need to return to something resembling a normal, pre-pandemic status, it would be wise for future migration applicants to be waiting at the front of the queue. Being proactive now could make all the difference later. Once the doors open, skilled migration applicants will need to be ready and able to lodge a compliant application. This is especially true given the inevitable competition for places to come. Further exciting opportunities, including the possibility to take skills to one of Australia’s highly liveable regional locations through the new regional visa pathways, could also be worth exploring.

In addition, the future process of economic recovery should also generate other new opportunities to work for an approved sponsor in a nominated occupation. Regardless of a concerning unemployment rate, the reality is that skills shortages continue to exist and certain industries still struggle to find sufficiently qualified and experienced people for particular roles. Our experience has shown that local organisations are, and will be, prepared to sponsor highly skilled foreign workers who match their specific needs.

Therefore, for many highly skilled applicants, outside of skilled migration, finding suitable sponsored employment can also provide a good chance of obtaining a temporary work visa and take a huge step towards their permanent residency.

How should an applicant prepare in advance for when Australia begins to prioritise the return of migrant workers? The first step involves speaking to experienced migration consultants who specialise in helping foreigners live and work in Australia.

Contact MCA to learn more about your visa options