Australia has announced that it plans to bring in new rules to help to reduce the number of new immigrants choosing to settle in its biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne and alleviate pressure on housing, schools, healthcare and public transport.
With immigration likely to be an issue in the next election and the coalition of Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, trailing in the polls this is seen as a potentially popular policy shift.
The Australian government are planning to bring in new rules that will ban some new migrants from living in Melbourne and Sydney, which are suffering from surging population growth primarily due to their popularity with migrants. This is also intended to rebalance population growth towards the regions that are suffering population stagnation or decline. Interstaff report statistics from the Department of Immigration that show one in ten people who come to Australia under existing regional visas move to a city within 18 months.
Alan Tudge, the population minister in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said:
“What we’re trying to do is get a better distribution of that [migration] growth so it can help some of those smaller states and some of the regional areas, which are crying out for more people, and take a bit of that congestion pressure off,”
There is a clear issue with the dominance of Sydney and Melbourne and The Times reports that although net migration accounts for 60% of Australia’s population growth nationally, it accounts for 84% in Sydney. Interstaff, the Australian visa processing agents, report that 87% or 112,000 of skilled migrants settled in Melbourne or Sydney last year, with existing Skilled Regional and RSMS visa programs only making up 10% of permanent migration visas.
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The changes are likely to be introduced in the new year with migrants likely to be “allocated” to a smaller town or city, where their visa is likely to include a condition that they would have to spend up to five years in one of the regions before being able to move to larger cities like Sydney or Melbourne. The idea behind the proposed new visa conditions is that migrants will be more likely to establish regional areas as their home and have greater incentive to stay if they are required to stay for five years.
It is not yet clear which regions will be included. Adelaide, Darwin and Canberra are currently considered regional areas and Perth was included until November 2017 when it was reclassified as metropolitan. There is also opposition to the proposals with The Times reporting that the opposition Labor Party question the workability of the new scheme with unemployment already high in many regions.
Immigration Minister, David Coleman, is also reported by Interstaff to be looking at ways to offer ‘the right incentives’ to attract migrants to live in regional areas. He believes that existing regional visas could be simplified to make the process to migrate to regional areas as easy as possible. Although he has ruled out the creation of special rural tax zones, he is reviewing the potential for a points-based system to fast-track temporary workers who choose to settle in areas other than Sydney or Melbourne.
About half of the migrants admitted to Australia as skilled workers are sponsored by particular employers and therefore live where their employers are located. Interstaff also report that Alan Tudge has confirmed the changes are not likely to impact employer-sponsored visas saying:
“Settling even a slightly larger number of new migrants to the smaller states and regions can take significant pressure off our big cities. There are some constraints to this, of course – for example 25% of our annual migration intake is directly related to an employer sponsoring a person for a job where they cannot get an Australian. We do not want to jeopardise the growth of those sponsoring businesses, and hence the wealth of our nation.”
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