Saturday, August 20, 2011

Attracting migrants to inland New England

From time to time I have talked about the best way of attracting migrants to New England. These might come from other parts of Australia (internal migration) or from overseas. In this post, I want to focus on the attraction of overseas migrants.

New England now has some of the poorest towns and areas in Australia. This problem has emerged progressively over the last fifty years as our young have left to be replaced in many areas by in-migration of retirees or those on welfare. Our population is now older than the Australian average, in many areas unemployment is higher than average, we have seen a drift of higher paid jobs.

As in any geographically diverse area, the pattern is not uniform.

We have parts of New England on the North Coast that are now simply overpopulated relative to economic opportunities. We have inland areas where there are available jobs that cannot be filled, vacant jobs that are holding back employment growth by reducing income and activity.

Even on the coast, there are areas where the inability to attract people to fill vacancies is a problem.

One of the problems that I have talked about in public policy is the way we deal in very broad terms, universals, that actually prevent the targeting required to address needs that vary greatly across space and time.

To assist in resolving this, I suggest that one of the things that we need is a specific policy approach to address the workforce needs of inland New England. We need approaches that will bring trades and professionals to fill existing gaps.

At one level, this may seem that we are favouring coastal over inland New England. Yet the reality is different. Growth in inland New England can aid coastal development, can provide broader opportunities for coastal kids.

I mentioned overseas migrants my opening paragraph. One way of assisting inland New England would be to specifically target this in migration programs. Professionals or tradies prepared to settle in inland New England might receive preferential treatment.

We are not talking huge numbers. Even two hundred new settlers in any twelve months would, over a few years, make a huge continuing difference. Then the focus could switch to other areas.

What about it?  


Augustus Winston said...

High Jim its been a while but I have given this a lot of thought. Why not have a system of cards for immigrants. Rather than lock them up in detention centres or sending them off to Malaysia why not let them work while their case is being investigated.

The cards would allow them to stay in certain areas and work. I'm sure they would enjoy this much more than being locked up. You could micro-chip them (the cards) so that they could easily be identified if they went into the wrong areas. And they could earn some money so that if eventually they were sent back they would have a good headstart.

A central database could work out what skills are needed where and the appropriate immigrants would be sent to that area. Affordable housing subsidised until they got back on their feet would be cheaper than maintaining a detention centre and landlords would benefit too. Their kiddies could go to local schools which would also benefit small business, bus companies and tuckshops.

I think if given the choice between detention in Malaysia or working in New England a majority would prefer New England.
I spoke to an immigrant the other day and his wife thought this was a good idea as several of their friends are waiting on deportation.

She also told me that their boats are made of exotic timbers that are near impossible to get these days like Teak. Why not let them turn these into valuable furniture as many are craftsmen.

Just some thoughts.

Augustus Winston

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Augustus

My focus was especially on skilled people. But I can't see why we shouldn't try what you are talking about.

The biggest practical issues would be to ensure that people went to welcoming communities, that support was also available.

Greg said...

Those are some ideas worth exploring further.

But as always, people tend to follow opportunities. You cannot expect or force people to go where opportunities are limited. It just doesn't happen.

This is where government must play a key role. The NSW government is constantly throwing money at Sydney and it's many issues. In the process it is creating a monster that feeds on itself as the Sydney centre of gravity gets ever stronger.

It may seem counter intuitive, but the best way of dealing with Sydney's many issues may be to shift the focus to regional towns and cities instead.

By investing in infrastructure and government services in regional NSW, opportunities are created OUTSIDE of the metropolitan area.

New England people would be encouraged to remain in New England and others would also be encouraged to move from Sydney to take advantage of opportunities ceated there.

This requires a radical and unlikely shift government thinking.

Jim Belshaw said...

Sorry for the delay in responding, Greg.

There is a two tier problem. One is creating opportunities. The second is getting people to take advantage of them. The second is an issue because there are things now like certain types of job vacancies not being filled. If they could be filled, then growth would be accelerated.

One problem in creating opportunities lies in the absence of our own government. A second problem does lie in getting people to think in new ways.

More on this later when I return to proper posting.