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Media claims immigrants lift wages (fact check – FALSE)

Media Shame File: The migrant boost: How immigrants to Australia are lifting wages

Media Shame File

Outlet: Sydney Morning Herald/The Age

Headline: The migrant boost: How immigrants to Australia are lifting wages

Summary: Senior economics correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age announces that immigrants lift the wages of “all locals”, citing four separate OECD research papers, but he does not mention that real wages are still at 2010 levels, or explain how both could be true. A close reading of the article shows that his central “lift wages” claim is simply not true.

The OECD research uses payroll records from 2011 to 2018, meaning it is dated and does not cover the last two years in which immigration has been at record highs, and low down in the article the author quietly concedes it did not examine effects on the housing market or infrastructure.

But even for this period, and given its limited scope, the article does not back up the headline, nor prove what it claims:

  • “The OECD found those areas with larger migrant share tend to have wages around 1.3 per cent higher than those with an average level of migrants … ‘This paper finds that Australian regions with larger shares of migrants tend to have higher regional wages, which provides evidence of a positive link between migration and labour productivity'” – The research does not show that immigrants “lift wages” – it just notes that wages are higher in areas with more immigration. No causal link is shown or even claimed in the research.
  • “A one percentage point higher share of migrants was associated with higher productivity worth $1490 per person” – Not only could this be explained by immigrants moving to more productive areas (why would they not?), a classic case of correlation is not causation, but it also suggests that they are the beneficiaries of the supposedly higher productivity rather than locals. Does the author think this is a good thing?
  • “A one percentage point increase in annual migrant numbers boosts the employment levels of locally born Australians by 0.53 per cent” due to a boost in ‘native geographical mobility’ … ‘The positive effect of migration on native employment is mainly driven by a substantial inflow of natives who were previously employed or unemployed in other regions'” – So natives are moving out (or being driven out) of areas with lots of immigrants, and going to poorer areas with lower employment rates. Again, does the author think this is a good thing?
  • “It also found that despite their high levels of education, migrants have lower employment rates relative to the native-born population. It said this ‘untapped potential’ was largely due to female migrants.” – This is presented as a bit of an afterthought, but seems pretty important. If immigrants in general lift wages and are so good for productivity, how can they be working less than locals? How can they be a net benefit to the economy, or to a social welfare system to which they have never contributed? None of this is addressed in the article, of course.

It should be impossible for a piece this biased and inaccurate to get published, but at this stage it’s par for the course in the agenda-driven mainstream media, which took a pro-mass immigration stance a long time ago and refuses to deviate from it.

Key Quote: “The OECD research did not examine the impact of immigration on the nation’s housing market or its infrastructure needs”

Subtext: “Don’t believe your eyes, up is down, black is white, immigrants lift wages”The migrant boost: How immigrants to Australia are lifting wages

Australia real wages Macrobusiness
The OECD claims debunked in one chart by Macrobusiness

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