Thursday, February 24, 2005

Too many to overlook

There's been a lot of talk in the Australian media lately about a looming labour shortage. After years of economic growth, immigration rates will need to rise, it is confidently asserted, to meet a potential shortage of workers.

This argument was neatly punctured by an article in today's Age. Leading Australian economist Bob Gregory has revealed that the number of working age men living on welfare in Australia has doubled in the last 22 years, from 500,000 to an incredible 1,000,000.

For a nation whose entire population totals only 20 million, this is a massive pool from which to draw additional labor requirements. You would think that the first priority of any government would be to retrain some of these men to fill any looming gaps in the labor market.

Why should we leapfrog 1,000,000 working age men on welfare to look overseas for our labour? It's hard to believe that this is even economically rational, let alone morally justifiable.

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