By Hansen Ding
In recent years, Multiculturalism has been maligned by opponents to the point that even political supporters often avoid the issue due to it’s controversy. Politicians skirt around it so much one would think it was a shameful word. The modern debates which revolve often around issues of asylum seekers, boat people and integration of Muslim communities have threatened to derail one of the fundamental arguments in support of multiculturalism: the economics.
Australia has an aging population. This leads to decreased GDP per capita, decreased tax revenues, increased strains on pension welfare, decreased labour market supply, which all leads to making us less competitive in the global marketplace. It’s simple maths: over 50% of migrants are aged 15-34, compared to just 28% of
Australians; 2% of migrants are over 65, compared to 13% of Australians.
Creedy and Alvadaro in their book “Population Ageing, Migration and Social Expenditure”, projected that by 2031, if net migration was 170,000 per year, the proportion of over 65’s would fall by 3.1%. An added benefit is that most migrants come after completeing tertiary and professional education and are ready to work, lessening the cost and burden on public education too.
There has always been a fear that increased migration would lead to working and middle class Australians losing their jobs. Such a fear is understandable but unwarranted. Ross Gittins, chief economicscolumnist at Fairfax Media, counters that migrants consume and generate jobs as much as they take them. Truly, there has been no study which found higher unemployment linked to migration. Rather, migration is found to have generally decreased unemployment as shown by Addison and Worswick in “The impact of immigration on the earnings of natives: Evidence from Australian micro data”; furthermore, there is also no evidence that migration decreases the average wages of Australians.
Then there are the intangible economic benefits of a diverse migration program. Most of Australia’s immigration comprises of skilled migrants who are largely educated and earn an above average income. These people are likely to form businesses or to travel back and forth between their home country forging links in trade and foreign
investment. This in effect diversifies our national business and insulates us against many marketplace shocks.
Multiculturalism: it’s good for our soul and good for our wallets too.
Joseph Assaf, founder of Multiculturalism in Australia and Chairman of the Ethnic Business Awards, said that migrants allow for “huge export opportunities with their countries of origin through international business networks” as well as being “a shot in the arm which immunises us against economic schisms. Migrants are also great brand ambassadors for Australia!”
And these are the factors we begin to forget; that we’ve had an intensive migrant program all throughout history precisely for economic benefits.
Past and present Prime Ministers, whether Labor or Liberal, understand this. Ben Chifley implemented vast post war European migration, Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Frasier ended White Australia, John Howard presided over one of the largest migration booms in Australian history, each time there was strong opposition, but each time Australia has grown and prospered. In the last month, both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott have reaffirmed their support of multiculturalism; the Government has also implemented a sweeping ten point strategy to ensure the further success of multiculturalism. The future of a diverse Australia, propelled to prosperity by
migration, has never looked brighter. Multiculturalism: it’s good for our soul and good for our wallets too.