Australia’s immigration Ponzi scheme

Sydney © iStock
Sydney: Australia’s top destination for migrants

Australia has announced plans to restrict some skilled migrants from living in its largest cities in an effort to “ease urban congestion and encourage skilled workers into struggling towns”, says the Daily Telegraph. The proposal – which critics say may not be legal or enforceable – would add visa conditions that prevent some new arrivals from settling in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane for up to five years. Last year, 186,000 migrants arrived in Australia, of whom most moved to Sydney or Melbourne. Around 40% would be affected by the new rules.

The issues behind the proposal – “bursting cities, uneven migration patterns” –are not unique to Australia, says Henry Grabar on Slate. Canada, where “immigrants have long clustered in just a couple of cities”, employs province-based visas to draw arrivals to less populated places. But many economists say that sending migrants to low-growth areas makes little sense and that they move to fast-growing regions with high-paying jobs. The evidence suggests cities function better when they are larger, since they are “strengthened by the increasing potential interactions between people and jobs”.

Regardless of this proposal, it’s clear that Australia needs to overhaul its approach to immigration, says Salvatore Babones in Foreign Policy. Its population has grown by nearly 45% since 1991. “No other major developed country even comes close to that rate.”This has boosted growth, but a continued reliance on adding more people “to float the economy and fund government budgets” risks creating “a giant immigration Ponzi scheme”.