Retirees 'cause' population surge

Baby boomers have been blamed for Australia’s need to keep immigration at high levels, as the debate intensifies about surging populations straining infrastructure in capital cities.

The chief executive of property developer advocate Urban Taskforce, Chris Johnson, argued in an ABC News editorial that proposals to shift newly arrived migrants out of big cities and into regional areas is flawed.

“The NSW Intergenerational Report issued a year ago indicated that 40 years ago there were seven income-earning workers for each retiree; this has now dropped to four and is projected to fall to 2.4 in 40 years’ time,” Mr Johnson said.

“It is the big bulge of baby boomers who are moving out of work that signals the need for skilled migration.

“The people we need are IT experts, finance experts, creative industry workers and these people are urban dwellers.”

Mr Johnson spoke following calls by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian yesterday that immigration to the state be halved because of excessive demands on infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.

She claimed the number of people arriving in the state had doubled in 10 years.

“I’m saying take a breather because the rates have gone through the roof,” she was reported as saying by ABC News.

“Just under 10 years ago, we were welcoming about 45,000 people. Two years ago, we were welcoming 75,000 people. It’s now 100,000 every single year.”

Earlier this week, Victorian Opposition leader Matthew Guy promised that if he won the state election next month, he would overhaul taxes to encourage people to move to regional centres.

“Taxes on property, land and business would be put under the microscope to see if the system can be changed to divert the state’s rapid population growth away from Melbourne,” the Opposition leader told The Age.

“Melbourne’s population squeeze is putting enormous stress on housing affordability, roads, public transport, schools, police and hospitals and that negatively impacts everyone’s quality of life,” Mr Guy said.

The city’s population is tipped to reach eight million by 2050, but Mr Guy said he did not believe that forecast was inevitable.

“I don’t accept that. I say we need to decentralise our jobs and population throughout Victoria,” he said.

But Mr Johnson argued that previous governments had tried and failed to get more growth in regional cities.

“What we need to do is not to blink at the concerns over the growing pains of Australian cities, but continue on the growth path set by our state governments,” he said.

Marcus Spiller, principal at SGS Economics and Planning, also warned against a change in immigration policy to slow population growth.

He told The Age that businesses were attracted to big cities the world over because they offered greater economic opportunities.

“A big Melbourne is not a bad Melbourne,” Mr Spiller said. “Melbourne is big because it offers major productivity benefits to the state.”

Mr Spiller said Melbourne’s growing pains, such as congestion, were an argument for better planning and investment in infrastructure, rather than a case for putting a handbrake on growth.

“The world over, people gravitate and firms gravitate to big cities because of the productivity benefits and the opportunities they offer,” he said.

An OECD report late last year credited Australia’s high migration rate with easing the burden of the pension system.

“Growth in the working-age population has been the main driver of labour force growth for most advanced economies over the past decade. Australia has seen particularly robust growth in its working-age population of 1.75 per cent each year over the past decade. Strong net migration has been a major contributor to this growth,” the report said.

Do you think the Government should cut back on immigration? Are you feeling the strain on services from the booming population? Are you concerned there soon won’t be enough taxpayers to bankroll government expenses, such as the Age Pension?

Written by Olga Galacho

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