Australian Govt grapples with the problem of enticing migrants to remain in regional areas

It’s a problem which many goverments have faced – how to encourage population growth in regional Australia.

Over eighty-five percent of Australians live in urban areas and nearly seventy percent live in the capital cities, making Australia one of the world’s most urbanised countries.

According to new data from the Department of Home Affairs released last week, 1 in 10 skilled migrants who move to regional Australia move to a city within 18 months

Back in May, the Australian Govt announced that it was working on changes to regional sponsorship visas in a bid to force skilled migrants to stay in those areas.

The department’s Continuous Survey of Australian Migrants revealed of the 6% of skilled migrants who settled in a regional area, 10% moved to a major city between 6 and 18 months later.

Australia brought in 4,766 skilled workers to regional areas in 2016-17 but almost half of them settled in Perth. The government removed Perth as a “regional” destination in November.

Darwin, Adelaide, Canberra and Hobart remain eligible for the regional visa.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government was “working on” options to improve retention of talented migrants in the regions.

Australia has a number of visa programs designed to bring migrants to the bush, including the Skilled Regional (887) and the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (187).

The government is trying to find ways to prevent the drain to the cities without impinging on the right to freedom of movement.

In May, Nationals MP David Gillespie told SBS News many regional employers were left with a “sour taste” when migrants skipped town to pursue opportunities in the cities.

Dr Gillespie would not comment on the government’s legal options but raised the example of overseas doctors, who often came on visas that linked their Medicare billing to a regional centre for up to 10 years.

Last week, the government released its final migration statistics for the last financial year.

Permanent skilled and family migration fell by 20,000 places to its lowest level in a decade, prompting an angry response from employer groups.

James Pearson, head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the regions would suffer from the reduction.
“This is a real crisis,” Mr Pearson told SBS News.

“Politicians have failed to plan properly for the population growth in Sydney and Melbourne, and regional Australia is now paying the price because of this cutback in our skilled migration by stealth.”

Category: Migration News
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