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More skills migrants needed

More skilled migrants needed: report Tuesday Jan 17 06:13 AEDT

Australia should significantly increase its level of skilled migrants to make the workforce more highly qualified, a new report has said.

The Productivity Commission report into the economic impacts of migration and population growth advocates an increase of 50 per cent on skilled migrant levels of 2004/2005.

The increase of skilled migrants from more than 53,000 to about 79,500, would only increase the average Australian yearly income by $335 by 2024/2025, the report said.

But Commissioner Judith Sloan said significantly increasing the number of skilled migrant levels was still beneficial because of the higher qualification levels in the workplace.

"The migration program is recently well targeted," Ms Sloan said.

"There are modest but useful gains in cranking it up a bit and keeping the focus on skills."

Ms Sloan said the small numbers of skilled migrants compared to the Australian labour force of 10 million meant the economic gains would only be small.

"You are always going to get a pretty small effect," she said.

But she said Australia could not increase its level of skilled migrants by much more than 50 per cent because it would decrease their average quality.

"There's quite a lot of competition for skilled migrants in the world," she said.

"Probably if you increased it too much you would drag down the average quality of migrants."

Unions have recently argued that the federal government should focus on boosting its training systems for Australian workers rather than importing skilled migrants.

But Ms Sloan said skilled migrants were currently more qualified than Australians and would improve the quality of the national workforce in the short term.

"If you look at the skilled migrants 80 per cent of them have post school qualifications which is considerably higher than for Australians," she said.

"Although we are becoming more qualified."

The report said the findings were consistent with studies on skilled migrants in other countries.

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