EXCLUSIVE: Immigration VS Automation: Are WA Youths Ready For Future Opportunities?

The plot thickens as Ivan Leung continues to explore the issue of youth unemployment in Part 2 of the “Left Behind” series, which was featured last night on the Western Perspective segment.

As automation and technology develops at a rapid pace and Australia’s migration continues to grow, Ivan examined whether the upcoming generation are well prepared for an increasing competitive labour market.

Why Migrants choose Australia?

After finishing high school in her home country of Malaysia, 26 year old Cherly Chan came to Perth to study university. Following her graduation and a professional year, Cherly has found a full time job as an accountant.

Like many other international students who’ve found a sense of belonging in the community, Ms Chan has applied for a permanent visa so she can call Australia home.

“I do love Australia especially the environment, and the fresh air here, the roads, the facilities and the infrastructures,” Ms Chan said.

“Compared to my home country, I think the work place is giving young people a lot of chances to raise their voice, or express their new ideas so this is the part that I like.”

When asked whether she agrees migrants reduce job opportunities for young Western Australians, Cherly says she believes that young people will get the first opportunity work as long as they work hard.

“When I graduate from university, I put through a hundred resume and I had no interview or call. I’ve found this job because I have one friend saying that there is a vacancy. I tried very hard for that as well, and I have got that job.”

“… I will say as long as you work hard, you will get to the level and the entry opportunity. I saw a lot of friends who are studying with me, they are local, graduated from university and still get the jobs with other accountant firm.”

“I don’t think migrants steal the jobs, as long as you work hard enough and you will still get what you are looking for.”

Immigration Kills Or Creates Jobs?

There has always been a dispute in Australia as to whether migrants create or take jobs for the young. But do the facts stack up?

According to figures from the Australian Bureau Of Statistics… In 2018, Western Australia’s net overseas migration figure is 12,809 people, with WA’s population reaching 2.6 million people.

So what are the connections between migration, youth unemployment, and wage growth? The answer is mixed.

During a conference held by the Reserve Bank Of Australia in April 2019, a paper named “Immigration and Wage Growth: The Case of Australia” summarized the finding of the studies on this topic.

“Overall, these studies do not provide much evidence that immigration is hurting locals’ wages. Where immigration is found to have a significant effect on average wages, it is generally estimated to be positive,” The paper said in its summary.

Meanwhile back in 2016, a report from the Productivity Commission shows that in September 2015, temporary graduates, international students and permanent immigrants made up a total of 13 percent within the 15 to 24 years old Young Australian workforce. The report also said more investigations are needed before making a conclusion on the role immigration plays in youth employment.

“The results also emphasise that the correlations presented in the draft report should not be considered evidence that immigration leads to the displacement of youth workers. This is not to say that immigration does not lead to youth displacement, but further, and more complex, investigations are required …” The report said.

Independent Upper House MLC Charles Smith has a different view on the matter. He believes that migration should be limited in-order to increase young people’s opportunity to get a job.

“Graduates are particularly hit hard by the current environment. I’ve talked to many young people and the graduates who came out of the university five or six years later, they are still struggling to find a job in that chosen profession,” Mr Smith said.

“They have to take part time jobs which would be suitable for school leavers, they are all competing against each other, there’s just not enough jobs there (in the market).”

“The McGowan Government with the graduation list encouraging more of those people (overseas students) coming in and study. For example, solicitors, we have a glut of those people in that profession in the student market, and they (State Government) are getting more people to come and be a lawyer, there is no jobs for lawyers right now.

But Migration lawyer Lily Chen hit back, saying skilled migrants and overseas students also made positive contributes to the Western Australian economy.

“That’s why in this state, we’ve got more small businesses closing their doors. That’s why we have more job losses. It’s because we do not have enough people who require services,” Ms Chen said.

“The most important thing you need to provide are very clever policies, to attract international students to this state. One overseas student would automatically bring seven or more tourists.”

“… If you are coming about new immigrants who come, they can only do what the visa granted them to do. And those ones, the government believes are highly skilled or its labour shortage because the local market cannot supply enough labours.”

“So there is nothing clash with youth employment.”

Are We Ignoring The Risk Of Automation?

As the debate rages around WA as to whether immigration takes away employment opportunities for the young… Are we ignoring the threat hidden in plain site?

It’s automation, the technology which has a potential to make entry level jobs obsolete for the next generation.

A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development revealed that automation poses significant or high risk to 36% of Australian jobs. It indicates that adults will have to be retrained or up skilled if they want to keep their jobs.

It doesn’t take long for political expert Dr Ian Cook to take his pick…

“There is no doubt that automation takes more jobs than immigration. Absolutely no doubt at all,” Dr Cook said.

“All the studies that migration has an economic stimulator effect, we have to recognize that. We always seen, always have been shown that migration stimulates the economy, produces jobs.”

“… Australian industries are not going robotics. We are not introducing technologies, we are not the ones moving forward with the rest of the world.”

“So robots take jobs out of Australia because we don’t have robots creating stimulatory effects in our economy to produce jobs here.”

Are WA Youths Ready For The Automation Revolution?

As the State Government continues to seek initiative and create jobs for the future by working major mining companies, there are calls for to address the skill shortage of STEM education.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. One Nation WA Leader Colin Ticknell says more needs to be done on education in order to secure young people’s future.

He is also calling the on the State Government to reduce red tape and support small businesses to create jobs for the young.

“We look at where the jobs are going to be in the near future, just around the corner in a year or two and they are going to be the STEM subjects,” he said.

“We know that mining is in a bit of a rebuild, it won’t be like the old days, but if we go with the STEM subjects, we will be able to pick up the jobs in the future.”

“The way do that is to see the government, and the mining companies get behind the students of WA and say… We are going to back you, we need you to learn these subjects, and we will give you the jobs in the future.”

“All those things (the initiatives) will work, but you need a bit of all of that. I think the government needs to get behind and sponsor the young people in a way that’s going to deliver great results.”

“The consequences are, we will have a generation lost. Our smartest, our brightest, best Western Australians are going to be on the scrap heap. Most of them are going to move away, they are going to move over east or somewhere else where they can get a job.”

As working environment transforms in an increasingly fast paste, experts believe that young jobseekers in WA can overcome the disruption of automation.

“There is definitely that Australia has a chance to get ahead, we are thoughtful, we are creative, willing to look into the future and be serious about that.” Dr Cook said.

No matter what the future has in store for the next generation, it’s important for Western Australia to equip itself for the upcoming jobs and not left behind by progress.


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Ivan Leung began his media adventure in 2007 with DHK News Chinese, he worked as a journalist and the senior newsreader in Hong Kong. In 2009, he becomes the DHK English News Executive Producer and the Chief Newsreader in-charging a 20 people news team in HK and Perth, presenting "Evening News" together with Ana Godden. Ivan becomes WAMN's Editor-in-chief after resigned from DMHK due to personal reasons. Ivan can speak fluent Cantonese, Mandarin and English.

Website: http://www.wamnetwork.com.au

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