Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

The United States is not the only country where annual immigration has remained far above historical levels. Australia's immigration rate has continued at record levels as well, and the Aussies are likewise in the midst of a debate about the numbers.


American news outlets picked up a story this week about a report from Australia's treasury department and the anonymous artists who write the headlines at Bloomberg and the New York Times had some fun:

"Sorry Populists, Australia Says Mass Immigration Is a Good Thing" smirked the Bloomberg header.

"The Definitive Report on What Immigrants Add to Australia's Economy" blared the NYT headline with authority.

Beyond the clickbait headlines was a pretty ho-hum finding: immigration grows the population ... and there are consequences.

Bloomberg's Jason Scott reports:

The "Shaping A Nation" report, released on Tuesday to "inform discussion and debate," says the government's policy of adding 190,000 non-humanitarian migrants a year with a focus on taking skilled workers has boosted economic growth, reduced the adverse effects of an aging population and lifted aggregate demand through consumption and investment.

Australia's population grew more than twice the developed-world average last year.

Still, there's also some ammunition for opponents of the government's policy.

Anti-immigration voices have grown louder in recent months and are likely to be drawn to a section that points out that high population growth in Australia "can heighten existing pressures on infrastructure, housing, and the environment. Without continuing action to find innovative solutions, high rates of growth may also intensify issues such as congestion and excessive waste production."

Mass immigration means more people; more people means a bigger economy and a greater demand on resources. We didn't need a government report to tell us this.

Or maybe we did.

The New York Times story - from Adam Baidawi (an Austrailian, himself) - lists only the benefits of mass immigration in his "key takeaways from the report."

The American press has a now-decades-old history of ignoring the connection between immigration and demands on resources, infrastructure and the environment. Whenever you see a news story touting immigration as an easy way to grow the economy, ask yourself if what you're reading looks like a ponzi scheme.

Savvy consumers of immigration reporting will also look for any implicit or explicit denial of the law of supply and demand. For instance, Baidawi writes "Immigrants do not depress wages" and indeed the Australian treasury report did not find evidence to the contrary (although it noted that "further research would be valuable") -- both should raise red flags.

I'm no expert in the Australian economy but I'm willing to bet that the law of supply and demand works the same on the other side of the globe as is does over here: when the supply of something goes up, the demand goes down. vice-versa.

In more wonky terms, the National Academies of Sciences tells us is that mass immigration grows the economy (more people = bigger economy) and also produces an approximately $50 billion surplus for Americans. There is a caveat though: the $50 billion surplus is arrived at through the redistribution of approximately $494 billion in wealth transfer from Americans who compete with immigrants for jobs and wages to Americans who profit from the lower cost of labor. In other words, immigration's impact on wages may be small in the aggregate but significant in specific populations.

Mass immigration policies produce winners and losers. The sooner the media recognizes that, the sooner we can have a comprehensive debate about the numbers - one where all stakeholders are included.

Update: The New York Times headline has changed online. It now reads "Australian Government Acknowledges Immigrants Are Boon to Economy."

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Program for NumbersUSA

Updated: Tue, May 1st 2018 @ 7:20pm EDT

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