Australia will cut its cap on migration by 15 percent and issue new visas that require some skilled workers to live in regional areas, in a population plan Prime Minister Scott Morrison says is needed to alleviate pressure on big cities.The nation’s annual migration ceiling will be reduced from 190,000 places to 160,000 — a figure in-line with 2017-18’s 12-month intake, which was the lowest level in a decade. As many as 23,000 people will need to live and work in regional Australia for three years before being able to access permanent residence.
“Managing population growth isn’t just about the migration intake,” Morrison said in a statement on Wednesday. “It’s about infrastructure, it’s about city and regional deals, it’s about our congestion-busting projects, removing traffic bottlenecks.”Morrison’s government, which trails in opinion polls ahead of elections due in May, wants to address concerns by voters in major cities. These include fears the immigration that’s helped boost Australia’s population by 50 percent over the past three decades has also triggered over-burdened infrastructure, expensive housing and low wage growth. Still, he’s also aware that drastic cuts to the intake could jeopardize a core driver of economic growth.
Australia has long had a problematic relationship with immigration, despite being one of the most multicultural countries in the developed world. Following last Friday’sattack that killed 50 people in two mosques in New Zealand — a racially-motivated act of terrorism allegedly perpetrated by an Australian man — attention has turned to whether politicians, including those from Morrison’s own party, have been stoking fears about migrants and refugees.
The government says the new regional visas are needed because there are an estimated 47,000 job vacancies outside the big cities. It comes after the government said in October that just under half of the total intake would be affected by the planned measures.“The changes will mean migrants will stay in regional Australia longer-term, as they will build ties to a particular location through workforce participation and community involvement, easing the pressure off our congested cities,” Morrison’s statement said.