Industry experts warn about reducing Australian immigration

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The Australian government recently hinted that they may reduce immigration quotas in response to the global economic downturn. But industry experts are warning that reduced levels of immigration will hurt businesses in Australia.

Both Prime Minster Kevin Rudd and Immigration Minister Chris Evans have stated that migration policies should take into account the current economic situation. However, no decision has yet been made to reduce immigration. That decision would ultimately reside with the Australian cabinet during the annual federal budget decision process.

Not everyone agrees that reducing immigration -- especially skilled immigration -- is the right thing to do in response to a slump in the economy.

Gary Black, executive director of Australia's National Retail Association says that reducing immigration quotas is not the right answer.

"Industry, I think, unanimously would express a view that you can't interfere with those types of programs, upon which many sectors are relying," he said.

While he agreed that the government should review current immigration policies, he stated that "it really would be counter productive to interfere with skill-based programs."

Black was referring to immigration schemes such as employer sponsored 457 temporary work visas and the General Skilled Migration program, which allows overseas workers to come to Australia permanently under a points based system.

The schemes have proven very successful for Australia, reducing inflation and filling shortages in the labor market. The GSM points based system has inspired similar schemes in other countries such as the United Kingdom.

John Hart, CEO of Restaurant and Catering Australia, says that any reductions in immigration should take into account the actual demand for workers in various sectors of the economy.

"My concern is that in some of the reports in the past couple of years, the movements of labour have been underestimated," Hart said. "That is both when it's grown and retracted. So I don't actually think we're going to see a retraction of jobs anywhere near the percent they're projecting."