Thursday, August 2, 2012

Melbourne's population growth, is this good for Melbourne

Tim Colebatch's report on the rapid growth of Melbourne raises the question, is this growth good for Melbourne? As he points out, during the last decade Melbourne's population grew by much more than any other Australian city. Melbourne grew by over 647,000 people, with Sydney the next largest with an increase of 477,000.

It is clear that the pace of this growth has been way too rapid for State and local governments, as well as public and private infrastructure providers, to cope with. The consequences have been severe, with travel times to and from work blowing out, electricity and council rates skyrocketing, residents losing their ability to preserve their street scape and neighborhood character, and young people unable to afford a house with a backyard anywhere near where they grew up.

It doesn't have to be this way. As Tim Colebatch reports, 60 per cent of this growth came from overseas migration. Both our permanent and temporary migrant worker programs were greatly increased during the last decade, supposedly to deal with the mining boom, but instead many migrant workers end up in Melbourne. The migrant worker programs should be returned to the level of the 1990s and 1980s, and Melbourne would be able to cope much better than it is at present.

This is first and foremost the responsibility of the Federal Government, but it would help if State and local government started calling for it, instead of behaving like drivers of the getaway car, which is what they have done all too often during the past decade.


  1. Mmmmm.. perhaps some other 'facts'...
    1. 60% of our NOM are temporary Visa holders.
    2. Over the next 25 years our death rates double due to the boomer bulge leaving the home planet and it is not likely our fertility rates will increase. Natr]ural growth may drop to zero or even negative.
    3. Our demographic momentum, more people living longer, is 1/3 of our growth in real numbers.

  2. Nice work again Kelvin. There is no argument for the government deliberately growing our population. It is astonishing that it has become business as usual to have high levels of immigration and baby bonuses to ensure our population grows at 1.4+% year after year. We have sold enough of our assets and quality of life and trampled over enough wildlife. There is no economy without ecology. Somehow, some have become overly concerned about our ageing population, but as mentioned above, we are simply living longer. We can adjust more readily to this than we can our staggering levels of immigration.

    Time to balance immigration with emigration and limit the baby bonus to two. We can always turn the immigration tap on at any stage if needed.

    If we did the above, investment might once again find it's way into true productivity and our own rather than businesses and governments taking the lazy route of growth in GDP through endless population growth. And your speech on the flaws in the GDP was excellent - we definitely need a new measure.

  3. Matt
    You need to study these images
    Some parts of our cities are declining in population. 22% of our homes are lone occupants and that is projected to rise to 33%. Shocking!

    Some other light reading...

    "In the next few years, for the first time, there would be more people in the world aged over 60 years than children aged under five."

    We are certainly not alone...

    1. sorry Paul, but you can't resolve ageing population issues without astronomical levels of immigration. We've had net immigration levels of 180,000+ for more than a decade and our population is growing at more than a million every 3 years. We can't afford current levels of immigration, nor the 1.5 billion a year we spend on the baby bonus anyway, so your points are moot.

      People are living longer so they should work longer - simple as that. It's not the issue you imagine. Further, as a result of our immigration policy, 2 in 10 Australians over 65 were born overseas and 1 in 10 Australians over 65 were born here.

      By all means, let me know when you find a source of humans that don't age.

    2. Pauk, I'm unsure why you're so fixated on the so-called ageing population issue - it is nowhere near the priority, the demographic spread has only been exacerbated by high-immigration policy rather than mitigated, and you seem to be of the opinion that as we get older we're purely sycophants when the elderly contribute in many other ways and don't command a great deal from welfare until their last few years. And it is clear these modest costs are far less than what it costs to run our population pyramid scheme.

      But here's a response for you from someone who has looked long and hard at the whole problem. William Bourke writes:

      Can Australia stave off ageing by importing younger immigrants?

      No. The Productivity Commission stated clearly that it cannot make any significant or lasting impact on population ageing: “substantial increases in the level of migration would have only modest effects on population ageing and the impacts would be temporary, since immigrants themselves age”.

      A 1999 Australian parliamentary research paper, entitled "Population Futures for Australia: the Policy Alternatives", looked at the claim that immigration could offset an ageing population. It found that in order to maintain the proportion of the population aged 65 and over at present levels, "enormous numbers of immigrants would be required, starting in 1998 at 200 000 per annum, rising to 4 million per annum by 2048 and to 30 million per annum by 2098. By the end of next century with these levels of immigration, our population would have reached almost one billion."

      The paper concluded: "It is demographic nonsense to believe that immigration can help to keep our population young. No reasonable population policy can keep our population young."

      Importing younger migrants to stave off ageing is an irresponsible pyramid scheme that only leads to a bigger number of 'aged' people down the track. Due to large-scale post-war immigration, in 2006 almost one in five (19%) of the overseas-born population were aged 65 and over compared with only 11% of the Australian-born population.

      Population growth is unsustainable. In the long run, the only way to successfully manage ageing is through responsible policies including: (1) Greater productivity; (2) Greater workforce participation; (3) Tightening eligibility for entitlements such as the aged pension, aged care and subsidised health care; and (4) Increased savings (e.g. superannuation).

      And indeed, this is reflected ad-inifintum. Look at where we're sitting on the productivity scale:

      For whatever baseless reason, we've embarked on a campaign to funnel the bulk of our wealth into high immigration campaigns that have us facing bankruptcy. It will take years to fix this mess.