Immigrants make great exporters and employers

Wednesday, 11 January 2012  Media Alerts

Tim Harcourt, the JW Neville Fellow in Economics at the Australian School of Business, says "immigrants make great exporters and employers. One in two Australian exporting companies are run by people born overseas. And exporters pay 60% higher wages. It's win-win."

Immigration numbers from the Bureau of Statistics shows that while immigrants account for less than 30% of the labour force, they have claimed more than half the jobs created since the start of 2010.

Tim Harcourt says "there's no doubt that the modern Australian economy was built on immigration. And this has been good for Australia's trade ties as well. There are clear links between immigration and trade. New migrants are likely to have strong links to business communities back home, in terms of friends, family and business contacts. There are no language barriers, nor any cultural adjustments to make. And as more countries embrace the market economy there will be many more opportunities."

The latest ABS jobs data show that migrants are officially more employable than Australian-born job seekers, claiming 81,000 new jobs over the past year while 38,000 locals lost their own jobs.

Tim Harcourt says "50 per cent of all small and medium sized enterprises that export are run by an overseas proprietor. You just have to take a roll call of great Australian business leaders who have were born overseas. The names Abeles, Lowy and Parbo come to mind. Many of these business leaders came to Australia from war torn Europe with no assets (and often with no English) but with a range of business contacts in their home market. Much of Australia's success as an exporting nation in the late twentieth century was due to the efforts of the post-war immigrant business leaders. It is always important to replenish your stock of entrepreneurial human capital and immigration is part of that process. The influx of migrants also changes consumer tastes in the new country (like new Thai restaurants replacing 'meat and two veg' places) and ultimately increases demand for both exports and imports."

The figures for November, which are not seasonally adjusted, place the unemployment rate for Australian-born at 5 per cent and the overseas-born at 4.8 per cent, showing that newly arrived immigrants are going straight to work and helping keep the economy growing.

Tim Harcourt adds "there is also economic evidence about the links between cultural diversity and exports. Overall growth in trading partners may be exploited faster as a result of the rapid growth of ethnic groups in Australia. The main effect of cultural diversity is to reduce transaction costs in trade - because of the tacit knowledge held by migrant workers. The attitude to exporting of Australian businesses could be enhanced by the presence of cultural diversity in senior management. So I argue throw another shrimp, satay stick, dim sim or kebab on the barbie and celebrate the benefits that immigration brings to our society and indeed to our balance of payments."

For further comment call Tim Harcourt on 0408 485 479, or Email tim.harcourt@unsw.edu.au

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