REGIONAL mayors say their districts have jobs to accommodate migrants as the Federal Government tries to get new arrivals to move across the Great Dividing Range.
Soon after taking over as Australia’s new prime minister, Scott Morrison announced his government’s intention to push new migrants and international students to regions that require growth.
Mr Morrison argued that metropolitan cities such as Sydney and Melbourne have become overcrowded.
And the statistics back him up: the population of Greater Sydney grew by 102,000 in the year to June 2017, with migration making up 85,000 of the total, TheSydney Morning Herald reported last week. Melbourne grew by 125,000, with net migration accounting for 80,000 people.
But are the regions capable of handling an influx of new migrants and giving them a decent living?
The NSW Business Chamber, in its recent Workforce Skills Survey, found that the regions were facing acute skills shortages.
A skills shortage is defined as the gap between the jobs that need doing and those qualified to do that job.
Western NSW, which includes Dubbo, Bathurst, Orange, Mudgee and Lithgow, had the highest skills shortage at 70.6 per cent.
Western NSW was followed by Murray-Riverina and Illawarra-South Coast regions in terms of skills shortages at 60 per cent and 58.5 per cent respectively.
“In regional areas, the most likely factor contributing to skills shortages was candidates lacking specialist knowledge required to perform the role (29.2 per cent), followed by the loss of experienced staff (18.0 per cent) and the geographic location of the business (14.7 per cent),” according to the survey.
NSW Business Chamber CEO Stephen Cartwright said skills shortages exist across NSW and they were mainly in the construction, retail and wholesale trade, finance and insurance, manufacturing, accommodation and food services areas.
“From a regional perspective, there have been a number of challenges with the current skilled migration program. These challenges include both the additional cost associated with supporting a skilled migrant and the time and cost of compliance,” Mr Cartwright said.
“The solution should not ignore high levels of youth unemployment – maybe it could include a pre-condition for employers seeking skilled migrants is to take on a trainee or apprentice.”
Dubbo mayor Ben Shields said there are always plenty of job opportunities in regional areas.
“Dubbo is lucky to have [a] record low unemployment [rate] of around two per cent, which means there are employers who are desperately seeking staff and unable to find them. Migrants may be an effective way of filling those skills shortages,” Cr Shields said.
“Regional cities offer a more relaxed and affordable lifestyle and may even be a great way for people to establish themselves in the country before considering whether they would like to move to a metropolitan city.”
Bathurst mayor Graeme Hanger said Bathurst has the largest local government area in the region and it represents one-fifth (or 20 per cent) of the total Central West economy.
“There are currently 70-100 jobs available in the city and these jobs require a specific skillset, however there are still a number of casual jobs which have recently become available in the manufacturing industry as well as retail, events and hospitality,” Cr Hanger said.