So what effect could that have on Australia?
In the 12 months since the closure of Australia’s international borders, Australia’s population has grown by just 35,700 people according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The growth rate was only 0.1 percent, a significant drop over the previous years.
The “annual natural increase”, consisting of births and deaths among Australian residents, remained constant at 131,000 people.
But that was offset by a significant drop in net foreign migration, to a negative figure of 95,300.
That’s a decrease from 334,600 people since the previous year.
“Not since wartime in Australia’s history have we seen anything that even comes close to the demographic change we experienced during COVID-19,” ANU demographer Dr Liz Allen told SBS News.
Australian companies have already struggled with labor shortages before the pandemic hit and now the ongoing borders have exacerbated the issue.
“It simply came to our notice then [migrants] through very high-quality medical professionals, we realize how dependent we are as a state and as a nation of immigration, ”UTS Business School professor Jock Collins told SBS News.
There is an unmet demand from migrants aiming to settle or return to Australia, but Dr Allen said it is unlikely consumption will return to pre-COVID levels – where the population has grown by more than one per cent annually – in the near future. .
“This is causing a major disaster for Australia and in the economy,” she warned.
“The basic needs of this country will not be met because the local workforce is insufficient to meet the needs of our industry.”
It is a difficult lead for New South Wales Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet, who earlier this week spoke of his eagerness to reopen international borders.
“We need to open the borders. Then we need to market to those overseas countries to bring in some of those smart migrants, because if we miss this opportunity, those smart migrants will go to other countries, ”he said on Monday.
It is a change of perspective ahead of the pandemic, where his predecessor Gladys Berijiklian went to the last state election in 2019 pushing to cut immigration to the state by 50%, citing growing problems with infrastructure and traffic congestion.
An “ambitious” boom?
La Australian Financial Review reported that senior bureaucrats are asking Mr Perrottet to set their views on migration even higher, with the figure of two million migrants over five years.
They urged him to lobby for an “ambitious” immigration program, in the vein of the mass influx after World War II, when Australians received a message “live or perish”.
In 1945, the government worried that the country needed a larger population to support its defenses and economic recovery, leading to the founding of the Federal Department of Immigration and a goal to increase the population by one percent annually.
Source: Provided by: National Archives of Australia
About 1.2 million migrants entered the country over the next 15 years, mostly from a war destroyed by Europe, giving an economic boost.
“These new immigrants have contributed to half of the job growth in the economy, half of the population growth,” Professor Collins explained.
“Immigrants would arrive … straight from the boat, literally into the factory, the next day.”
He said the country is facing a similar shortage of jobs today – which would require a strong increase in migration to resolve.
But a rising World War II style would pose challenges for infrastructure and housing, as public transport, roads and the health care system need to be increased.
“Too often in the past, governments have benefited somewhat from immigration by delaying the necessary investment in public infrastructure to create problems along the way,” Professor Collins said.
He also warned against the growing reliance on temporary visa holders to fill a job shortage, with a risk of increased exploitation and wage theft.
The post-war migration boom also signaled a significant shift in Australia’s cultural composition.
The decision to accept refugees from all over Europe marked the end of the preferred housing of British nationals and the beginning of Australia’s transformation from an Anglo-central colony to a multicultural society.
It triggered a shift in perspective on migration that culminated in the abolition of the White Australia Policy by the Whitlam government.
“It was the post-war immigration boom that planned a new course for Australia. We have moved away from that white monoculture … we have realized that we need to move beyond the Antipodes of our migration history and instead look to the future, ”Dr. Allen said.
While the post-war outbreak has drawn heavily on European immigrants, Dr Allen expects China and India to continue to contribute a significant share of Australia’s arrivals ahead of COVID.
“We will require skills in people from various backgrounds, workers, professionals, and so on. [And] I suspect we will continue to see migration from more diverse places than from where we have historically welcomed people, ”she said.
“At the moment, this post-COVID reconstruction will be a watershed in our history.”