The June forecast for Net Overseas Migration was recently released by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. The forecast for September 2014 is 4.5 per cent higher than the latest ABS estimate.
Here is the key table (Table 4, p.9):
(Note: total is not equal to other rows given I omitted the “other visa” category)
246,000 additional net migrants in the 12 months to September 2014 is high by recent history. The Treasury assumes 180,000 in it’s Intergenerational Report from 2010. In revisions from previous forecasts, student migration in particular is rising, the main cause of growth from now to June 2016.
The fact DIBP releases these forecasts should be commended. It’s difficult enough to forecast economic growth. Trying to predict if people will move into and out of countries is one step further.
These migration forecasts are based on existing and announced government policy and economic factors. As an example, slower economic growth forecasts in the Budget sees the forecast growth in 457 and working holiday visas flat over the next four years. As a policy example, when the ALP increased the humanitarian program to 20,000, this was reflected in the forecast then removed after the Abbott government lowered the humanitarian program back to 13,750.
While these forecasts are helpful for policy-makers and other bureaucrats, we should keep in mind some questions.
Is it likely permanent migration will be maintained at 190,000 over the next four years? No. However the forecasters cannot possibly know what level will be chosen by government.
What subtle forces are at work as we see rising departures of Australian citizens? Forecasting emigration is perhaps the hardest of all migration given the lack of government policy control.
Will the New Zealand economic recover maintain its vigour, meaning less Kiwis in Australia? The coming election may transform perceptions of the country by New Zealand citizens.
Will the European recovery ever happen, stemming the tide of Working Holiday Makers from countries like Ireland?
Is the link between domestic economic growth and 457 visas a robust predictive indicator? What is more employers become aware they are eligible to use the program?
What is the theoretical upper-limit of international students, particularly in a higher education policy environment which appears in flux?
These questions do not mean the forecasts are useless. Far from it. But we need to be aware they are subject to change as other indicators and policy change.