Originally Published, 9th October 2019
Australia has one of largest immigrant populations in the world, with nearly one in three Australians being foreign born. The country is host to many large immigrant communities, with the majority being made up of Chinese, Indian, and broadly Middle Eastern migrants. Immigration plays a special role in Australian society, making it a frequent topic of debate and often coming to the forefront of Australian politics.
Knowing this significance one might ask, what do Australians themselves think about immigration? The business and media classes of Australia love immigration. They would have you believe that immigration (in particular the recent, non-European kind) is the best thing to ever happen to Australia.
They say that mass immigration is the one thing that can jumpstart the economy, that it brings exotic cultures that enrich Australian society, and that best part of immigration is that it’s good for everyone, even for (as Ironic as it may be) those who oppose it.
But how true is any of this? Who benefits from this massive campaign to make immigration a positive word in everyone’s mind? The truth is that this grand campaign is fueled by self-interest, and the idea that immigration is good for all of Australia is riddled with lies and misconceptions.
So then, what are the real effects of Immigration?
Let’s start with the workers.
The economic impacts of immigration have been studied across the world for decades. Most of this work has been based around countries with incredibly high levels of immigration, such as the United States. Thankfully, some of this work (although relatively little) has taken place within Australia, and it shows that immigration has a direct impact on workers. Evidence from the Australian government’s Productivity Commission shows that there is a wealth transfer from low-skill to high-skill workers, where the most vulnerable group; low-skill workers, see their wages decline while those with a bachelor’s degree see their wages increase.
However, the wins and losses are not necessarily this clear-cut.
Since Australia’s immigration system seeks to import mostly high-skilled immigrants, those with a bachelor’s degree have also faced setbacks due to competition from immigrants. For instance, the commission shows in their findings that as the number of graduates in Australia has increased, new graduates have found it more difficult to find a job after completing their education.
At the same time, the median salaries of graduates (relative to weekly male earnings) have fallen. They also find that there’s been an overall increase in the demand for educated workers, but that this demand has been significantly watered down by an influx of people with similar qualifications.
It’s clear that people are losing out to immigrants in the labor market, but it’s helpful to remember that one person’s loss is often another person’s gain. While the workers lose out to foreign competition, it’s the elite business class that seeks to gain from devaluing your labor.
But Immigration has far reaching impacts beyond the labor market.
Australia’s immigration system brings in immigrants that are, for the most part, ethnically very different from native Australians. This system of immigration brings a lot of ethnic and cultural diversity to Australia, and while the media might tell you that it’s good because you might get to try a new food, or hear some nice foreign music, there are some severe drawbacks from bringing so many different people with different back grounds into one place and expecting them to all become “Australian.”
Diversity in Australia causes some significant harm to the social fabric of neighborhoods and cities, often reducing trust between communities, damaging mental health, and even increasing levels of crime in certain areas. With this tension creates separation between groups of people, often which can persist across generations, bringing into question whether or not many immigrants are, or can be, capable of assimilating.
A lack of assimilation doesn’t just mean that you might hear more foreign tongues at the supermarket, or that more shop signs are going to read in Mandarin instead of English. It means something much more serious, it creates a question of loyalty. When people don’t feel like assimilating into Australian culture, when they don’t feel like giving up allegiance to their home country, or even learning fluent English, then what does that make Australia?
If Australia isn’t a country where everyone is working towards a common goal then it is no longer a country. She becomes an economic pie that everyone is trying to get a piece of for themselves, and sadly in some places Australia is devolving into this.
An unsettling amount of immigrants from China are openly trying to spread the influence of the Chinese government in Australia. Just recently, a police station in Victoria raised the Chinese flag in honor of the 70th anniversary of the Republic of China’s founding. Do you think that this type of feeling is reciprocated anywhere in China on Australia day? Of course not, and such a problem of national loyalty and identity (and in some ways, sovereignty) will only grow unless Australians decide that their country should be what it was founded as: a nation, not a pile of money created for the world to take their share of.
In its current state, Australia is suffering from stagnant wages, rising housing and infrastructure costs, increased environmental stress, and growing cultural tensions. Immigration is contributing to most of these problems, and with the constant barrage from the media about how wonderful immigration is for the country, one cannot help but tell themselves; “No, Immigration is not good for Australia.”