Labour Mobility and Migration News

Welcome to the second edition of Devpolicy's Labour Mobility and Migration News for 2017. 

If you have received this from a friend or colleague, you can subscribe here. If you have any feedback, news or suggestions, please email We’re always looking for blog contributions and would welcome submissions from across the world on labour mobility and migration. For example, if you have a new report or piece of research you would like to highlight, please don't hesitate to get in touch. 

The Foreign Policy White Paper: Labour mobility and migration 

The Development Policy Centre's submission to the Foreign Policy White Paper makes a number of migration policy recommendations to better facilitate Pacific labour mobility. Migration is a major competitive advantage for Australia's foreign policy. The national interest is strengthened by allowing more robust people-to-people links in the Pacific, to say nothing of the economic benefit both here and in Pacific island countries.

The recommendations were mostly drawn from the joint ANU-World Bank Pacific Possible: Labour Mobility report, including the introduction of a permanent Pacific Category visa and an expansion of the Temporary Graduate visa for Australia-Pacific Technical College graduates. You can read the full submission here.  
The Australasian Aid Conference 2017: Labour mobility and migration

On 15 and 16 February, the Development Policy Centre hosted the fourth Australasian Aid Conference at the Crawford School of Public Policy. This year there were two parallel sessions on migration and labour mobility.

In the first session, Making migration work for development, Henry Sherrell spoke about migration indices and development, Dr. Sverre Molland discussed his research on safe migration in the Mekong, and Professor Eun Mie Lim showcased her study on low-skilled Nepali migrants working in South Korea's EPS program. In the second session, Labour mobility among Australia's neighbours, Dr. Matthew Dornan presented comparative work on Australia and New Zealand's seasonal migration programs, Dr. Ann Wigglesworth spoke to her research about Timorese migrants in Ireland, and Alisi Holani presented her research on Tongan participation in the Seasonal Worker Program.

Abstracts, audio and presentations of these sessions are being progressively uploaded here. To navigate the page, Making migration work for development is session 2E on day one and Labour mobility among Australia's neighbours is session 5B on day two. Thank you to each of the participants and those who attended the sessions. 

New Report: Oceans of Opportunity

A new report, “Oceans of Opportunity: How labour mobility can help Australia and its neighbours”, has been published by the Menzies Research Centre, a Liberal Party think-tank. The report is authored by Stephen Bolton and Dr Rochelle Ball. Launched by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on 1 March, the report suggests “specific visa classes be developed to encourage workers from Pacific Island nations to come to Australia to fill skills shortages, particularly in areas such as aged care, tourism and agriculture”. The fact a domestic political think-tank with a conservative bent and allied to the government has publicly called for a number of major changes to foster labour mobility is testament to the growing interest and support for labour mobility reform to develop the Pacific. 

Immigration and inequality in Australia

Would you prefer the income of a poor person in Australia or a rich person in Papua New Guinea? Henry Sherrell draws on Dani Rodrik's latest working paper to examine how inequality and immigration are understood in Australia. Based on 2009 data, an Australian person in the bottom income decile earns 40 per cent more than a Papua New Guinean person in the top income decile. With public debates about inequality still finding shape in developed countries like Australia, even a slight broadening of how we understand inequality, by considering between country as well as within country inequality, could provide a more robust foundation to address inequality over the long-term. Click here for the blog post.   

What do Australians think about immigration?

There are many factors shaping migration outcomes in Australia. One is public opinion and political support. Henry Sherrell looks at public opinion data from the Australian Election Study and other sources to highlight what Australians think about immigration. At the 2016 election, 46 per cent of respondents said immigration was 'extremely important' when deciding how to vote yet only four per cent considered it the most important issue in determining their vote. Just under 60 per cent of Australians think the current level of immigration is either appropriate or too low, making Australia one of the most welcoming countries in the world at the moment. However the increasing salience of immigration in the political environment may affect public opinion into 2017 and beyond. 

Syrian resettlement in Australia and New Zealand

Are Australia and New Zealand doing their fair share when it comes to Syrian resettlement? Jo Spratt examines a recent Oxfam report and finds New Zealand is doing poorly while Australia is on track but well beyond Canada and Norway.The Oxfam analysis is based on a call for rich countries to resettle or admit under humanitarian categories the most vulnerable ten per cent of UNHCR registered Syrian refugees in countries neighbouring Syria – approximately 480,000 people. Spratt notes the difficulties and expense related to resettlement but calls on New Zealand to do more. Click here for more.

Advance Australian Unfair

It is impossible to obtain clear financial costings, but Australia has spent well over a billion dollars annually since 2012 on efforts to prevent irregular migration, writes Emma Larking. She discusses a new Australian National Audit Office report regarding the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (a report DIBP has rejected). The report found undue haste caused additional expense for the Australian Government as well as reputation damage. Larking highlights how deteriorating public opinion in Papua New Guinea of Australia is one example of the regional dynamics at play.

Australian Government response to Seasonal Worker Program inquiry

The Australian Government has responded to a bipartisan Parliamentary committee report from last year on the Seasonal Worker Program. In responding to the inquiry (.pdf), the Turnbull Government has rejected the two central recommendations, exploring an expansion of the Seasonal Worker Program into additional industries and another review into the interaction between the Seasonal Worker Program and backpackers in horticulture.  

News, links and events
An interesting report from the Migration Policy Institute documents changes in South Korean immigration, a country without a tradition of immigration. "At the end of 2015, the country counted nearly 1.5 million registered foreign nationals, just under 3 percent of the population of 51.5 million. This represents an increase of 235 percent over the 438,000 registered foreign nationals at the end of 2003." The author, Young-bum Park, describes how this came to be and what to look out for in the future. Demographic change will continue to prompt changes in immigration policies across the Asia-Pacific, transforming norms and traditions in the process.

While you are at the MPI website, check out their excellent Migration and Development section and an absolute treasure trove of data

President Trump recently lauded Australia as an international example for the United States regarding immigration policy. Here is the Guardian's take while the Australian Financial Review details the background on personal links between Australian government officials and members of the Trump Administration regarding immigration policy. Professor George Borjas, a Harvard Economist, outlines what he sees as the immigration debate the United States needs to have while the Economist documents what happened the last time the United States kicked out immigrants.

Did you know Australia is the top destination for immigrant millionaires worldwide? With 11,000 millionaires moving to Australia (1,000 more than the United States and 13 per cent of all millionaire migrants for 2016), you would think we could manage more than 4,400 Pacific seasonal workers?

Nathan Smith writes (possible paywall) about 'A World Without Borders' for Foreign Affairs: "But even as anti-immigrant sentiment gains ground, a small but growing band of open borders advocates is reaching the opposite conclusion: Western elites aren’t letting in too many immigrants—they are letting in too few."  

If you live in Canberra, Zachary Ward from the Research School of Economics at the Australian National University is giving a presentation on Tuesday 21 March titled, "The not-so-hot melting pot: the persistence of outcomes for descendants of the age of mass migration". 

On the same day in Sydney, Dr. Khalid Koser is speaking at the Lowy Institute on "Refugees and Terrorism".

Finally, a fascinating chart-based blogpost on the labour market and immigration in the United Kingdom, asking some pertinent questions as the country fast-approaches fundamental immigration policy change in the wake of Brexit.
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