Australia is poised for a net migration of over 300,000 individuals this year, a 25% increase compared to Treasury forecasts, due to an increase in arrivals, according to former immigration official, Abul Rizvi. Rizvi, who served as the former deputy secretary of the immigration department, stated that Treasury forecasts of a 235,000 person yearly increase in population from migration have “significantly underestimated” the net figures.
The October budget forecast net overseas migration of 235,000 for both 2022-23 and 2023-24, based on the assumption that migration will continue in line with pre-pandemic trends. The government’s population statement also revealed that this figure is derived from a 14-year average from 2004-05 to 2017-18, and is comprised of 190,000 permanent migrants, 13,750 humanitarian migrants, and 66,000 temporary migrants who reside in Australia for several years, but do not transition to permanent residence, less 20,000 permanent residents and 15,000 Australian citizens who emigrate.
However, Rizvi argues that actual arrivals are much higher than these estimates and that Treasury has therefore underestimated the net migration. He cites data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in December, which showed that arrivals exceeded departures in October by almost 200,000. Rizvi pointed out that if there is a large excess of visitor arrivals over departures, a substantial proportion of these visitors will end up as net migration.
In October alone, there were 1.2 million arrivals and 1 million departures, with a surge of 430,470 short-term visitors arriving and 721,860 Australian citizens arriving for the short-term. Rizvi stated that in the 11 months leading up to November 2022, there was an “unprecedented excess of visitor arrivals over departures of 340,000,” and this figure is expected to grow further in December 2022.
Rizvi also suggested that the increase in arrivals may be driven in part by parents and other relatives visiting Australia temporarily while they wait for a more permanent visa. He also added that with the strong labour market, individuals have arrived in Australia and found alternatives such as a student visa, which is now effectively a work visa, or have applied onshore for a working holiday visa.
The former immigration official believes that even a conservative estimate of 40% of the excess visitor arrivals remaining in Australia, or 136,000 individuals, would more than double Treasury’s estimate of 66,000 temporary visitors contributing to the net migration in 2022-23.
The exact figure of net migration is unknown as the final net migration figure will not be determined until next financial year, and it is still unclear what portion of temporary visits will be extended by further visa grants. However, Rizvi’s comments on the matter have sparked a conversation about the possibility of the government adopting a proposal from the Business Council of Australia for permanent migration to be set as a percentage of the total population, automatically raising the current cap of 195,000. The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has signaled that he is “personally up for” having a conversation about streamlining processes to get the right mix, while recognizing that migration is not a substitute for training.
In conclusion, the former top immigration official, Abul Rizvi, believes that Australia will see a net migration of over 300,000 individuals this year due to a surge in arrivals, a figure that is significantly higher than Treasury forecasts. The exact figure is unknown, but Rizvi’s comments have sparked a conversation about the possibility of the government adopting a proposal for permanent migration to be set as a percentage of the total population. The strong labour market and the excess of visitor arrivals over departures in Australia are some of the factors that may be driving the increase in migration
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