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New regional migration approach needs more carrot than stick

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“While we need to see more details on the Federal Government’s approach to directing migrants to the regions, it should be focused more on supporting employers and employment than compelling migrants to live in particular areas,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group said.

“Attempts to settle new migrants in regional locations have had a mixed history of success. There are of course positive examples of refugee communities settling in regional towns, but they have enjoyed huge support from local social services and community groups.

“It is counter-productive to send immigrants to regional locations that are shrinking, have high unemployment, climate challenges or other problems.

“To maximise employment outcomes, we recommend that a more successful approach would be for the skilled migration program to be weighted further towards employer-sponsored or regional-sponsored permanent skilled migration sub-quotas instead of independent points-based skilled entry where higher points were given for regional settlement.

“People taking up permanent residency as independent skilled migrants cannot and should not be forced to live in a particular location for any length of time. The policy should be more carrot than stick with sub quotas used to get around the problem of free choice without the heavy hand of ‘forcing’ anyone to live in a particular area.

“The best approach to ensuring that a greater share of overseas migrants move outside the migrant magnets of Sydney, Melbourne and South South-East Queensland would be through:

  • employer-sponsorship or regional-government sponsorship, so there is a job attached to the location.
  • Business migration with a viable fully-funded, region-specific business plan.

“It would be counter-productive to send immigrants to regional locations that have limited employment opportunities, high unemployment, climate challenges, limited infrastructure or other problems.

“Policies to encourage and support regional business activity and growth are the key. Get those policies right and people will follow. This plan should not just encourage more recently arrived immigrants into our regional areas. It should actively encourage the investment in infrastructure, skills and linkages that are required, in order to enable more business activity and more people to relocate to regions outside the big cities that currently attract the bulk of immigrants,” Mr Willox said.

Innes Willox is also Chair of the Federal Government’s Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration and Chair of the Migration Council Australia.

Source: Ai Group