Australia has absorbed an estimated 10 million settlers since the First Fleet arrived in 1788. The majority of these settlers, some seven million, have come to Australia since 1945.

The migration program has favoured skilled migrants over family reunion since 197–98. Over this century there have been 1,464,622 skilled migrant visas issued with 753,691 family stream visas.

The current position is that much stronger productivity growth is needed if Australians are to recover lost ground and return to the rate of improvements in living standards they enjoyed over the two decades prior to 2011–12.

The ageing of the population affects the long-term outlook on labour utilisation in Australia. As a higher proportion of the population reaches retirement, the number of hours worked will fall in proportion to population numbers. Immigration can increase the proportions of the population of working and child-bearing age, bringing an immediate, as well as a longer-term, effect on labour utilisation. Immigrants may also have higher participation rates, employment rates and hours worked depending on, for example, motivation (migrants are sometimes characterised as keen to work and as working longer hours) and culture (for, example, the participation rate of married women).

the migration program, with its emphasis on skills, is having a positive impact on Australia’s productivity performance. Migrants have raised the level of labour productivity by six per cent according to census data. Between 2006 and 2011 their contribution to growth in skills accounted for at least 10 per cent or 0.17 of a percentage point of annual labour productivity growth.

Source: Migration: the economic debate