Up until the advent of the Covid pandemic, the scale of global international migration had been increasing to the point where it was estimated to be almost 272 million globally with nearly two thirds being labour migrants. While this is a small percentage ( 3.5%) of the worlds total population, they are large figures nevertheless.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), it is widely recognised that the scale and pace of international migration is notoriously difficult to predict with precision because it is closely connected to acute events such as severe instability, economic crisis or conflict – or a global pandemic.
It is also known from long-term data that international migration is not uniform across the world, but is shaped by economic, geographic, demographic and other factors resulting in distinct migration patterns, such as migration ‘corridors’ developed over many years. These corridors tend to extend from developing countries to larger economies.
According to data from IOM, large numbers of countries have introduced travel restrictions throughout the course of this year, ranging from the need to produce different forms of documentation or more enhanced medical testing requirements or, in the case of Australia, complete closure of borders to everyone except Australian citizens, permanent residents, resident New Zealand citizens, or immediate family members.
Clearly, the impact on the Australian economy of restricting foreign worker and business related travel is significant.
As Australia’s Covid numbers come down, we must assume that our representatives in Canberra are in a race to deliver solutions which will result in safe, controlled entry. Any such plans would need to be introduced gradually in order to be satisfied that they are workable and can be scaled. For economic reasons, we would assume that the business sector will be the first to be opened up to travel, with priority going to business/industries deemed to be of most importance to the nation and our economic well being generally.
If Australia can devise a manageable travel policy, and continue to maintain a largely Covid free environment, there may be considerable medium to long-term upside for the country developing into one of the ‘migration corridors’ referred to above as it will be able to market itself as an entirely safe and reliable country from which to conduct business. – a feat that other countries with hard borders will find hard to do.