Australia needs more migrants: demographer professor

16:04, July 13, 2010      

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Australia needs to lift its intake of skilled migrants to continue growing the economy, a leading demographer said on Tuesday.

Australian National University (ANU) Professor Peter McDonald said immigration has been a factor of labor demand and has a vital connection to economic expansion.

"The discussion in Australia is that we can fix population growth and forget about its relationship with the economy," McDonald told a seminar hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) on Tuesday.

"If the government is going to say we are going to cut immigration, I think it's incumbent upon the government to point to the projects and economic aspects they are not going to do."

McDonald, the director of the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute at ANU, said the growth of mining and other industries meant Australia needed to fill labor shortages.

"You can't say on one hand we are going to ... have rapid ( economic) growth, but we are not going to let people come into Australia," McDonald told Australian Associated Press.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said last month she did not believe in a "big Australia" policy targeting a population of 36 million by 2050, while the federal opposition wants to scale back skilled migration in a strategy to manage population growth.

McDonald said Australia's intake of 44,000 permanent migrants in the 2008-2009 year was insufficient to meet labor demand because it provided only 30,000 new skilled workers, which was " well below current demand".

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