Your correspondent is still travelling in Australia and notes that attitudes to population growth are very different from Finland, where such growth is frowned upon (or perhaps feared) by many voters.
It appears that Australia is not afraid of population growth through immigration. In fact they have a very open immigration policy that has seen huge increases in all of their major cities. Even though the land area of Australia is huge, large tracks are uninhabitable because they are dry desert or mountainous areas.
They already have a debate about what they call “Big Australia”, and that debate is about to increase in intensity.
According to data released by the Australia’s population increased last year by almost 400 000 to almost 25 million.
From the year 1990 their population has increased by around 40%!
Most of last year’s growth came from immigration, which had and increase of some 232,000, with natural increase, (births minus deaths) accounting for the rest.
On one hand strong population growth helps to boost economic growth, and government revenues, with more people in work translating to higher income tax and other revenues.
And, with an ageing population, a strong population growth will help to deal with demographic challenges in the years ahead.
However, for all the benefits that it brings, there are many challenges:
- Fast population growth in these big cities creates all kinds of issues that impacts the standard of living of those already residing there:
- More people means more demand for housing and infrastructure which makes housing more expensive, strains public transport, schools and hospitals and, the increase in the supply of labor causes real wages to fall.
- And though both federal and state governments have started to address some of these concerns, to many its too little too late…
The key question that has to be considered in the debate is whether strong population growth is helping to improve the standard of living for those already living in Australia, and what level of increase will be required to keep that steady or higher in the future.
None of these problems have been solved but there can be no question that new infrastructure and new housing is being built at a furious rate.
As a visitor, you not only see this building boom, but you see young foreigners from every country in the world happily employed on 1 year working visa in every restaurant, hotel and other service business. We never met any of them complaining that they were being exploited and they all seem to be pretty happy with the opportunity to work here for one year in this warm sunny country…