Home Property Australia Chief Executive | Karate chop: Skills and migration debate ignores future needs

Chief Executive | Karate chop: Skills and migration debate ignores future needs

  • June 05, 2024
  • by Mike Zorbas
The Prime Minister joined the Property Council Board meeting last week

In March, Build Skills Australia told us Australia needs an extra 90,000 skilled tradespeople to build 1.2 million new homes by ’29. 

Jobs and Skills Australia is less sure. Yesterday they released their Draft Core Skills Occupation List for consultation.  

They would like the public’s views on whether “Other Sports Coach or Instructor (Wushu Martial Arts and Yoga Instructor Only)” should rate above plumbers, roof tilers and bricklayers who are listed only for further consideration. Clearly they have been hacked. 

The stark reality is this. 

Nationwide skills gaps. Bulging infrastructure, defence and green grid needs. Housing supply deficit. Shrinking tax base. Ageing population. 

These are the domestic issues at hand. Now and for the next decade. 

Funsters that we are, we earnestly discussed these challenges with the PM and Opposition Leader last week in Canberra. 

And yet it was Friday, in conversation with SA Premier Malinauskas in Adelaide, that the strangeness of the current migration and skills debate really dawned on me. 

Roughly retold, Malinauskas says housing is temporarily our biggest challenge. Housing effects current quality of life, access to opportunity and social cohesion. 

What he also said – more engagingly than the regular Intergenerational Reports – is our country simultaneously needs many new, skilled, youngish people to help us prosper into the future.  

To harvest. To dig. To build the things we need. To support our terrific education sector and connect us to other countries. To look after us and pay taxes for us as we age as a nation.  

Yes the pandemic rebound from minus 94,000 net overseas migration (NOM) to above 500,000 was a shock and has to and will be intelligently managed down. It was always going to be. Treasury forecasts suggest 260,000 NOM by 30 June 2025.  

That NOM number, though above the previous decade average, may in fact be too low for our national needs.  

Consider only 7 per cent of visas are permanent skilled and another 6 per cent are temporary skilled. Since 2004 only 1.8 per cent of migrants are inducted for the construction skills that can address our housing gap.  

All too skinny against a growing population, the infrastructure tsunami, and growing household formation which the RBA says accounts for an extra 1.2 million home demand since the 1980s. 

Won’t somebody tell Jobs and Skills Australia. 

Next week, federal housing hijinks.