The latest overseas arrival estimates from the Australian Bureau of Statistics is good news for West Australian’s trying to get back into work. In May 2020 there were no arrivals travelling to Western Australia on a foreign student/worker visa, which corresponded to a decrease of 1,710 students (100%) compared to the corresponding month of the previous year. This reduces the intense job competition at present in WA. The cumulative unemployment rate has reached socially dangerous levels for WA’s youth at 26.8%. The McGowan Government should consider terminating their Foreign Graduate Occupation List while youth unemployment is at this critical level.
For all Australia in total there was a decrease of 34,220 foreign students/workers (close to 100%) compared to the corresponding month of the previous year.
During a pandemic and mass unemployment- there is no justification for running State migration programs.
There is enough evidence for the WA Government to acknowledge foreign students are having a negative impact on domestic workers. A Federal Government Productivity Commission report revealed that competition with immigrants for jobs could affect youth labour market outcomes in a number of negative ways.  However the McGowan Government ignored the report. Even with the current predicament in WA it is inconceivable the Labor Government have continued to hand out jobs and visa invitations to foreign workers (over 3,400 visa offers for 2019-20).
Population Research WA is not against the foreign student industry. With foreign student enrolment fees reaching $15 billion in 2018, it is clearly a significant part of Australia’s export economy. Universities’ central role in the economy should be education so there is no reason why Australia is unable to stand on its education reputation to attract foreign students? The debate is more about the impacts on Australia’s unemployed and whether the Federal Government should reduce the work hours allocated to foreign students and gradually phase out work permits.
Table 1: West Australia’s unemployment estimates and including workforce temporarily stood down from Jan – June 2020, due to Covid-19.
|Labour force total (million)||Official total unemployed (000’s)||Official unemployment rate|
|Labour Force Temp stood down (000’s)||Official unemployed plus stood down (000’s)||Unemployment rate|
|Jan – June 2020||30.78||154.68||10.9%|
(Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020.)
It is not feasible for the Labor Government to maintain a big State migration list when there are 155,000 West Australian’s officially unemployed and temporarily stood down (See Table 1). The data reveals that over 30,000 people have been stood between January and June 2020. There is no guarantee that all of those stood down will return to work, therefore the real unemployment rate is likely to be closer to the 10.9% shown in Table 1.
The official ABS youth unemployment rate for June 2020 is 15.2 % but this does not include the additional 24,000 youth that dropped out of the WA Labour Force (Jan-June 2020). The McGowan Government should consider terminating their Foreign Graduate Occupation List while youth unemployment is at this critical level.
Population Research WA would like to see the Labor Government develop a youth employment strategy. Part of this strategy would be to commission research to identify how the State Migration programs impacts upon WA unemployment levels.
A restrictive migration list is called for in the current circumstances.
Population Research supports the State Government’s General migration list, which is well targeted at very high skilled medical professions (twenty occupations in total). However, the McGowan Government needs to close down the Foreign Graduate Occupation List, which has 137 occupations ranging from TAFE technical levels to graduate study. Training up the huge number of West Australian’s unemployed to fill these positions should be an absolute priority.
In addition the Labor Government have kept Greater Perth designated as a regional area enabling migrants to access over 500 occupations on the regional list. In June 30, 2020 there was over 2 million temporary visas in Australia. Most temporary visas are eligible to apply for State Government nominated visas. It is time for the McGowan Government to show more compassion towards WA’s unemployed citizens. And close down their migration programs while State unemployment has reached untenable levels.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3401.0 – Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia, May 2020’ (c=AU; o=Commonwealth of Australia; ou=Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020) <https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/3401.0Main%20Features12May%202020?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=3401.0&issue=May%202020&num=&view=> [accessed 31 July 2020].
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3401.0 – Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia, May 2020’.
 Australian Government Productivity Commission, ‘Migrant Intake into Australia – Productivity Commission Inquiry Report’, 2016 <https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/migrant-intake/report> [accessed 23 February 2019].
 Government of West Australia, ‘Migration WA – Current Invitation Round’, 2020 <https://migration.wa.gov.au/services/skilled-migration-western-australia/invitation-rounds/current-invitation-round> [accessed 23 June 2020].
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 Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘6202.0 – Labour Force, Australia, Jun 2020’ (c=AU; o=Commonwealth of Australia; ou=Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020) <https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6202.0> [accessed 19 July 2020].
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘6202.0 – Labour Force, Australia, Jun 2020’.