By business editor Peter Ryan and staff
Updated Mon 13 Jan 2014, 1:40pm AEDT
A business lobby group is urging the Federal Government to boost Australia’s immigration intake by more than 15 per cent next year.
The Australian Industry Group wants the Government to increase the immigration intake from 190,000 this financial year to 220,000 in 2014-15, with a particular focus on skilled migrants.
Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox says now is the right time to accelerate skilled migration given Australia’s ageing workforce and skills shortages in industries including mining, construction, engineering and health.
“The Australian Workplace Productivity Agency has identified that Australia will need an increase of about 2.8 million people with quite specific skills over the next decade to fill some of those gaps,” he said.
“We need to find ways to fill those gaps, and obviously we can train our own, but the quickest stop gap measure is to import skills.”
The Ai Group says further increases from the 220,000 level may be needed in future years, despite unemployment currently sitting at 5.8 per cent and tipped to rise well above 6 per cent by Treasury, the Reserve Bank and many private sector forecasters.
Mr Willox says while there are Australians without work, there are not enough skilled workers for a range of specialist occupations, with the Ai Group singling out residential construction as an area of acute shortages.
He says increasing education and training is a desirable long-term solution, but immigration is a useful stop-gap measure.
“That’s definitely something we should be doing but that takes time,” Mr Willox said.
“Employers are increasingly concerned about the skill levels of graduates both from universities and schools, and this is something that we need to address.
“We’ve seen Australia slipping down the tables when it comes to those basic skills around our science, technology, engineering, mathematics skills.”
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