Modern Australian

If you think less immigration will solve Australia's problems, you're wrong; but neither will more

  • Written by Cameron Allen, Researcher, UNSW

Are we letting too many or too few migrants into Australia?

For 2019-20 the Australian government has cut the annual net migrant intake from 190,000 to 160,000. It’s a political decision, balancing the concerns of those who want much lower or higher immigration levels for a mix of social, environmental and economic reasons.

It’s an unsatisfactory and ad-hoc balancing act. Could there be more “science” in these decisions?

We’ve sought to come up with an evidence-based method to gauge the effects of migration. To do so we’ve used the internationally accepted framework for development planning, the Sustainable Development Goals. The goals cover major aspects of economic, social and environmental well-being, from decent jobs and quality education to good health and clean water.

We investigated three population scenarios: one similar to Australia’s recent annual level of net migration (about 200,000 a year); one much lower (about 70,000 a year); and one much higher (about 300,000 a year).

What our results show, perhaps surprisingly, and more by luck than design, is that recent levels of immigration seem to be in a “goldilocks zone” that balances economic, social and environmental objectives.

Our results also suggest migration is neither the problem nor solution in many areas where Australia is off-track, from government debt to environmental action.

Balancing competing agendas

Immigration policy is Australia’s de facto population policy. With the birthrate just keeping up with deaths, it’s migration that drives population growth. It’s why in 2018 the population passed 25 million, years earlier than previously predicted.

Annual migration intake is set as part of the the annual budget cycle. The government treats it primarily as a short-term economic issue. But population growth has long-term impacts on many sectors, from health and education to infrastructure and housing. Population growth, particularly through urban expansion, increases pressures on the natural environment.

Ideally, therefore, decisions about migration numbers and population growth should synch with long-term planning at the state and local levels to avoid service shortages, urban sprawl, vehicle congestion and infrastructure shortfalls.

Read more: Solving the 'population problem' through policy

The question remains about how to make evidence-based policy that balances deeply divided views. Some strongly support high net migration due to the important role population growth plays in managing an ageing population. Others argue equally forcefully for reducing migration because it places a burden on infrastructure, services and the environment.

Using the sustainable development goals

To negotiate these differences, we chose the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The goals cover long-term targets in 17 major areas of economic prosperity, social justice and environmental sustainability. All member states of the UN, including Australia, have agreed to them as a shared blueprint to achieve by 2030.

If you think less immigration will solve Australia's problems, you're wrong; but neither will more The 17 Sustainable Development Goals. United Nations

Each goal area includes multiple specific targets – 169 in all. For example, Goal 11 (“Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”) includes the targets of adequate, safe and affordable housing and affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems.

Countries are not required to adopt all targets, but focus on those appropriate. We chose 52 targets relevant to Australia, covering all 17 goals and ensuring a reasonable balance of economic, social and environmental priorities.

Read more: Explainer: the world's new sustainable development goals

Using advanced modelling capabilities, we tested how achieving the targets by 2030 might be affected by different population sizes.

Overall, not a huge difference

The following chart shows our results in a single graphic. For our low-migration scenario, Australia’s population in 2030 is 27.3 million; for the moderate, 28.9 million; and for the high, 30.6 million.

If you think less immigration will solve Australia's problems, you're wrong; but neither will more How low, moderate and high population scenarios affect Australian’s performance on the Sustainable Development Goals. The authors

Only in two goal areas – education, clean water and sanitation – do our results show Australia doing better than 85% achievement by 2030 under all three scenarios. Only in another three – health, gender equality and energy – do we do better than 50%.  

All scenarios had equal effect on eliminating poverty (Goal 1). However, the low-migration scenario did better for achieving food security and improving nutrition (Goal 2).

Perhaps surprisingly, for decent work and economic growth (Goal 8), the middle scenario scored the best.

In the centre of the chart are the overall scores of each scenario.

The high-migration scenario (39.4% progress towards all targets) is the lowest , but not by much. There is almost no difference between maintaining recent migration levels (40.5%) and significanly slashing the migration intake (40.6%).

This suggests that, on an equal balance across a broad set of competing objectives, recent historic levels may be about right.

However, these results brush over the range of trade-offs between different targets – some of which may be considered more important than others.

Compared against the low scenario, for example, the high scenario results in an estimated 1.7 million extra vehicles on the roads, increased water consumption (~600 million m3), greater urban sprawl (~60,000 ha), and higher greenhouse gas emissions (~15 million tons CO2-equivalent).

Poor performance in many areas

What is perhaps most striking is that, regardless of the population scenario, Australia isn’t tracking well on most measures of sustainable development. Other studies have concluded the same.

As already noted, Australia is doing well on health, education and water quality. But it’s performing poorly on climate action (Goal 13) and responsible consumption (Goal 12), to name just two.

Read more: Australia falls further in rankings on progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goals

Broadly accepted frameworks to measure progress and weigh policy decisions in contested areas is something we lack across the policy board.

Finding new drivers of job creation, addressing infrastructure needs, and tackling climate change are just some of the complex challenges Australia faces.

Ad-hoc, short-term approaches to addressing them are unlikely to often deliver optimal outcomes. Combining clear targets, a long-term perspective and advances in modelling might help.

Authors: Cameron Allen, Researcher, UNSW

Read more http://theconversation.com/if-you-think-less-immigration-will-solve-australias-problems-youre-wrong-but-neither-will-more-115136

NEWS

Reality slippages and narcissistic stereotyping

Lucy spends much of her life living through her phone screen – what happens when we are let into this vantage point?Mia Forrest/ABCLucy (Charlotte Nicado) is a pink-haired millennial having...

You can help track 4 billion bogong moths with your smartphone – and save pygmy possums from extinction

Healesville Sanctuary, Werribee Open Range ZooEach year, from September to mid-October, the tiny and very precious mountain pygmy-possums arise from their months of hibernation under the snow and begin feasting...

Is vigorous exercise safe during the third trimester of pregnancy?

Vigorous exercise is safe while pregnant, even in the final trimester. But if you don't feel up to it, lighter exercise is beneficial too.From shutterstock.comExpectant mothers receive an avalanche of...

Climate change is the defining issue of our time – we're giving it the attention it deserves

The Conversation has joined more than 250 news outlets around the world to focus on climate change coverage. We provide 100% evidence-based coverage on climate change. Stay informed BY subscribing...

when communities must move because of climate change

Flood damage in Bundaberg, Queensland, in 2013. Most communities are at some risk from extreme events, but repeated disasters raise the question of relocation.srv007/Flickr, CC BY-NCThis story is part of...

Australia to attend climate summit empty-handed despite UN pleas to ‘come with a plan'

The Port Kembla industrial area in NSW. Industry emissions can be cut by improving efficiency, shifting to electricity and closing old plants.Dean Lewins/AAPThis story is part of Covering Climate Now...

Apple's iPhone 11 Pro wants to take your laptop's job (and price tag)

What a week it has been in the Apple core. In recent days the tech giant has released a litany of products, including new phones, watches, tablets, and more.The big-ticket...

how supermarket pharmacies could change the way we shop

Supermarket pharmacies have been around in the US, UK and mainland Europe for years. But will Australia follow?from www.shutterstock.comOn the way home, you wander into the supermarket for a loaf...

As Scott Morrison heads to Washington, the US-Australia alliance is unlikely to change

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-NDPrime Minister Scott Morrison’s official visit to Washington this week carries some prestige. It is just the second “official visit” (including a state dinner) by a...

we need to teach kids activities they'll go on to enjoy

Schools could use bushwalking as an activity and link it to lessons in other subjects such as geography and science.Shutterstock/Monkey Business ImagesPhysical education is one of the most popular subjects...

Morrison's right hand man dispenses with niceties in lecturing big business

The Morrison government appears to be seething with anger at big business. At least, that’s the impression you get from a lecturing, hectoring speech delivered this week by Ben Morton...

New musical has enough warmth, witty lines and catchy tunes to win its own fangirls

Sharon Millerchip, Ayesha Madon, James Majoos, Chika Ikogwe, and Kimberley Hodgson in Fangirls at the Brisbane Festival. Photo: Stephen HenryComedy often succeeds where tragedy fails. Fangirls, the pop...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

Best Paradise Islands You Should Visit in AustraliaMost Popular Mexican Destinations for Australian Visitors How to know the universe is guiding you Cancer 101: 6 Dietary Habits Increasing Cancer RiskQuick turnaround in a rental property at Bondi demands frequent rubbish removal4 Basic Decor Principles That Never Go Out Of StyleEvery Day Should Be Mother’s DayGuys, Are You Making These 5 Critical Skincare Mistakes?What To Check For In Supplements And Slimming Aids?Engineered Wood Flooring vs. Laminate Wood Flooring How Panel Beating Can Quickly Repair Your Car’s Hail DamageBenefits of filtered waterCleaning tips for the kitchen Most popular Latin American destinations for AustraliansWhat Is Laser Dentistry?