The Coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything the modern world has experienced. Even in its infancy, it had a devastating impact on healthcare systems across the planet, brought strong economies to a grinding halt, and stopped all human movement – including immigration – in its tracks.
Currently, Australia is home to around 7.3 million migrants, with the majority of these individuals coming from England, China and India, but every single country in the world is represented in Australia’s migrant population.
Immigration will undoubtedly be part of the human story moving forward, but as policymakers continue to flatten the Coronavirus curve while simultaneously nursing ailing economies, experts are theorising about the long-term impact that this pandemic will have immigration policies and procedures.
This begs the question, what does the future of immigration look like post corona?
Greater collaborations around the world
Governments in some parts of the world may emerge from this crisis with guarded views on immigration and a desire to tighten policies. We expect Australia to remain open to skilled migration, as it is immigration and international trade, which has underpinned our strong economy over the past 28 years.
Since private businesses are motivated to recruit top talent at home and abroad, it’s likely that governments and companies will collaborate to find new ways to safeguard the availability of skilled foreign labour through temporary and permanent work visa programs.
The Australian Prime Minister has affirmed its positive stance in immigration as an enabler for business growth and innovation. Business needs to deploy foreign workers appropriately in response to the pandemic has been proactively managed with special arrangements for temporary visa holders working in critical services. This level of collaboration between the Government and employers is a positive sign for better collaboration in the future.
Boosting Australia’s economy through immigration
With the world in lockdown, we are witnessing a significant impact on global economies. In the coming months we expect a business restrictions ease in the short term, and very gradual re-opening of our borders in the medium term.
Prior to COVID-19, Australia enjoyed 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth. One of the primary drivers behind this sustained period of economic growth has been Australia’s net overseas migration rate.
By 2050, immigration is projected to account for $1.6 trillion of Australia’s GDP. (Source: Migration Council of Australia)
Even now, immigration can help fuel Australia’s economic recovery. It’s critical that our skilled talent pipeline remains strong – even after the pandemic.
How Australia manages the short-term decrease in migration during the border closure will determine how quickly our economy recovers. It will be very difficult for the Australian economy to grow considering the recent spending debt, if population growth from skilled migration is restricted.
Businesses have the opportunity to recruit from the talent pool of specialists already in Australia and plan their global talent requirements for the future. Australia will remain an attractive destination for skilled individuals who are seeking to emigrate once borders re-open.
Relationship changes with global partners and neighbours
The Coronavirus pandemic has shown how localised issues of our neighbours can rapidly become widespread global issues that are inescapable.
With many of our neighbours, Australia offers streamlined immigration processes under international trade agreements and treaties, which may need to be reviewed given the higher risks in the health and border control practices of some nations exposed during the COVID-19 outbreak.
On the flip side, Australia derives a massive amount of talent from Asian countries such as China, India and Malaysia. Policies will still need to be friendly to these neighbours and facilitate international trade and mobility, so any adjustments here are likely to be small.
Global mobility changes mean more opportunities
While remote work is growing in popularity due to the pandemic, there will always be a need for “on the ground” people across all industries.
Remote work isn’t always possible in many industries, but aside from that what this crisis has also shown is that employees tend to want flexibility and agile work options, but not a complete removal of human interaction and collegiality. People still want the opportunity to explore the world and gain international experience.
The pandemic gives employers the chance to re-examine their workplace policies and to tune up anything that might need extra attention. While Coronavirus has exposed some weaknesses in some systems and procedures for international businesses, it’s also presented learning opportunities. As an example, some companies are seeing the need for better systems to manage business travellers in a world where all forms of travel are largely restricted.
Beyond the pandemic, we expect the demand for travel and immigration will stay strong, and many industries will have an urgent need for skilled workers as they try to bolster up their workforces again. Higher levels of unemployment may lead to higher levels of scrutiny of work visa applications, to ensure that the program is not used to undercut employment for Australians. But systemic skills shortages mean that businesses will continue to need skilled migration.
Refocus on local economies for self-sufficiency
Governments are likely to re-examine their self-sufficiency after the effects of the pandemic subside. It’ll be especially important for Australia to review resources in critical areas such as agriculture and food production, health and aged care.
Bolstering up these critical sectors may also present opportunities for Australia to excel in innovation and R&D, and require more labour in manufacturing, information and communication technology – which means more opportunities for Australians as well as migrants. Australia’s global talent visa program is geared towards attracting migrants with skills in innovative fields like advanced manufacturing, ag-tech, med-tech and so on.
Greater reliance on immigration partners
Lastly, as businesses try to navigate a world changed by the Coronavirus, there will be a greater need for experts who can step in and partner with businesses to explain and manage the impact of major challenges such as the enhanced border measures.
As the Coronavirus crisis unfolded, it was clear that businesses needed a high-touch, human-centric and agile solution from experts who could deliver reassurance and confidence to business executives and employees.
In the future, businesses will seek to rely on advisors who can proactively manage their immigration affairs and anticipate changes and their impact on business. Businesses will seek to properly structure their international recruitment and mobility programs, have a proactive liaison with governments on immigration applications and help with a variety of global workforce management issues.
Above all, a strategic approach will be most important. Businesses will need help from immigration partners who can share global insights, identify and capitalise on immigration opportunities, partner with the right people in various industries and work directly with business leaders to achieve goals.
While advisers will still help with basic tasks like paperwork and visa processing, they will be expected to have more knowledge and insight than clients were accustomed to or their role required in a pre-pandemic setting.
Visa Processing during Covid-19
Even with limitations, it’s still possible to secure work visas for your foreign workers and use this time to ensure that your sponsorship program is in order and sponsorship obligations are being met.
And – if you’re hiring and need to sponsor a foreign worker under a visa program in this climate, it’s still possible – it just requires a strategic approach, a good understanding of current decision-making trends, the right advisor on your side to navigate the process.
The future of immigration may look different after the world emerges from Coronavirus, but there will still be plenty of incredible opportunities for immigrants as well as businesses that hire talent from abroad.
During this crisis, some immigration firms have cut staff and restricted operations – and have left clients without direction in an uncertain time. At The Migration Agency, we’ve actively worked with our clients to ensure their needs are met during the current climate.
If you have pressing immigration needs or questions regarding the impact of Coronavirus on immigration, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org