June 29, 2021 | By Graeme Kemlo

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg launched the Government’s latest Intergenerational Report (IGR) in Melbourne on Monday, detailing how Australia could develop over the next 40 years and warning that COVID would cause smaller population growth that expected.

It promoted a response from independent think tank, CEDA – the Committee for Economic Development Australia – to re-open Australia’s borders, which echoes calls from the tourism industry.

CEDA Chief Executive Melinda Cilento, said, “The IGR highlights the generational challenges posed by a population that is expected to grow more slowly, and age more rapidly, than previously expected, due to the pandemic population squeeze and our closed borders.”

While the 2015 IGR projected Australia would hit a 40 million population by 2054-2055 , this latest report suggests it will miss that mark and reach only 38.8 million in 2060-61.

“With our ageing population, and the population freeze caused by our closed borders, our future growth will rely on productivity,” Cilento said.

Echoing the thoughts of major tourism and hospitality bodies, she said CEDA had called for Australia to re-open its borders before mid-2022, adding “The Federal Government should ramp up the vaccination program now, to help us on this path. “

CEDA also called on the government to “recalibrate its skilled migration program to attract not only the best and brightest migrants, but also those with the right skills and experience for the jobs we need to fill – and we need to start now.”

micenet has previously reported on the difficulties many hotels are currently facing to find chefs and other kitchen and housekeeping staff alongside other workers who were previously employed as migrants on special visa programs, but returned home when the pandemic struck.

International students studying in Australia also contributed significantly to the tourism and hospitality workforce, not only in major cities but also in regional areas, working as housekeepers in major hotels and helping primary producers through harvest time. Despite moves to extend their work hours and suggestions that some capital cities might charter flights to bring the students back to Australia, the shortage remains, forcing many hotels to artificially cap room availability because they cannot clean and service sufficient rooms each day.

Cilento said the IGR highlighted the enormous challenge for Australia to improve its productivity, achieving its worst result in 25 years.

“Research by Federal Treasury before the pandemic showed leading Australian firms were not keeping up with leading global firms on productivity. Australia had its worst result in 25 years in the recent IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2021, a global ranking of the competitiveness of 64 nations.”