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Economist destroys ‘skills shortage’ argument for more immigrants: ‘Misinformation’

Joe Hildebrand immigration

An economist has torn apart a mainstream media commentator’s argument that Australia needs high immigration to fix skills shortages to fix the housing crisis.

Sky News contributor Joe Hildebrand said during a panel appearance on Sunday that there were “no easy solutions” to the housing crisis.

Rental vacancies are at record lows, dwelling completions are lagging behind mass immigration-fuelled population growth and housing prices are at all-time highs.

“A lot of the people we’re bringing in are people who build houses,” claimed Hildebrand, an influential pundit who is also a columnist for Australia’s biggest news website,, and Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

immigration meme

“So, a lot of the reason why there’s not enough houses is that we don’t have the skills we need here. So we are bringing in skilled migrants.

“We have to bring in people to fix skill shortages so that we can fix the housing crisis.”

But economist Leith van Onselen described his argument as “misinformation” in an article for MacroBusiness titled “Australia’s housing crisis turns Orwellian”.

Describing Hildebrand’s claim as “circular reasoning”, van Onselen referred to a meme previously shared on The Noticer and said: “They argue that Australia needs to import more migrants to build houses for migrants.

He then pointed out that NSW Premier Chris Minns has made the same case for bringing in hundreds of thousands of immigrants into the country every year, causing a 44% increase in Australia’s population since 2000.

“It is a perpetual-motion Ponzi scheme in action. More worryingly, neither has bothered to examine the types of migrants Australia is importing.”

He went on to refer to a chart (above) from The Grattan Institute published in The Conversation which revealed that:

Migrants are less likely to work in construction than in most other industries. About 32% of Australian workers were foreign born, but only about 24% of workers in building and construction were born overseas.

And very few recent migrants work in construction. Migrants who arrived in Australia less than five years ago account for just 2.8% of the construction workforce, but account for 4.4% of all workers in Australia.

Therefore, van Onselen argued, Australia's mass immigration program was doing the opposite of what Hildebrand claimed, and is making the housing crisis worse.

"We need a migration system that is much smaller in size and better targeted towards the skills we need," he said.

"Otherwise, the housing shortage will worsen, and inequality, productivity growth, and living standards will deteriorate."

Anthony Albanese last year promised to build 1.2 million homes by 2028 to alleviate the housing shortage caused by his own immigration policies, but new figures released on Thursday show dwelling approvals are falling instead.

The Australia Bureau of Statistics revealed that total dwellings approved fell 1.9% to 12,520 in February, with private sector dwellings excluding houses falling 24.9%, to 3,771, and private sector houses rising 10.7%, to 8,404.

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