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The Australian Population Research Institute is an independent research organisation. It is devoted to understanding and communicating the nature of Australia’s demographic and economic situation and the policies and factors influencing this.

It is a not-for-profit Institute with no funding from corporate Australia. Its members are all participating researchers who contribute to the Institute’s work.

New research report, 17 June 2022
David McCloskey, Impacts of Structural Changes In Australia’s Economy (2006 – 2016) on labour productivity, income inequality and competition in local markets June 2022
Economic policies have an impact. The ‘reform’ and trade liberalisation agendas of the 1990’s have been touted as the key to Australia having a record of more than 20 years of uninterrupted nominal economic growth.
But what has been the cost of this nominal growth? This study has examined the impact of the open market policies and reforms on the structure of Australia’s jobs and industries over the period from 2006-2016. It identifies the actual changes in Australia’s economy that have occurred under these policy settings.
Calls for more reform and more labour market deregulation are based on the idea that they will promote improvements in productivity, better allocation of resources to productive sectors of the economy, and will lay the foundation for future economic prosperity.
These ideas are mistaken. While nominal economic growth has been achieved the policies have had perverse outcomes. High productivity sectors, such as manufacturing have experienced a structural decline of 60%, while there has been a boom in low productivity jobs (both high and low wage) in people servicing industries.
Our analysis of the structural changes that have taken place in the Australia’s economy from 2006-2016 shows that these policies have led to the off-shoring of jobs (more than 210,000). They have also been accompanied by an increase in automation which has led to the loss of at least 223,000 jobs, with a further 150,000 loss of jobs due to digital transformation.
The study also highlights the impact of the concentration of market power on jobs in the retail sector and the failure of the ACCC to maintain competitive retail markets.
Many middle-income jobs have been lost through these structural changes. They have been replaced with both more low-paid, insecure jobs and also more very highly-paid jobs, leading to a hollowing out of middle-income jobs.
At the same time these structural changes have increased our dependence on imported essential items. Market competition has also suffered with the concentration of market power into the hands of large businesses through their purchasing policies, market saturation and selling price policies.
To compound these problems our economy has become heavily reliant on an aggressive China for export sales of coal, iron ore and gas (employing a minimum number of people).
At the same time we have become dependent on China for manufactured goods (employing many Chinese people).
The structural changes identified in this study suggest that Australia is increasingly vulnerable to economic shocks with a huge reliance on high commodity prices. There is an urgent need for smarter, evidence based economic policies to be developed that will allow Australia to compete in the high productivity knowledge jobs of the future.

Blog post, 25 November 2021
Different survey methods, different results: What do Australians really think about immigration numbers?
There have been two recent opinion surveys about Australians’ attitudes to immigration numbers: TAPRI’s and one by Essential Research.  They yielded markedly differing results. This blog post analyses the reasons for this. There are important implications for survey design and interpretation of results

Research report, 14 October 2021
Katharine Betts and Bob Birrell, Politics and the population question during the pandemic: The 2021 TAPRI survey
Survey results: There is a huge gulf between Australia’s elite and Australia’s electorate on immigration policies – a gulf which has hardened since the Covid pandemic began in March 2020.
The Coalition government, as well as leading business and employer groups, have declared that they wish to see Australia’s immigration intake restored to around net 240,000 a year when Australia’s borders are opened. This is the Big Australia target.
TAPRI’s survey found that, in late July 2021, only 19 per cent of voters agreed with this target. The rest supported lower levels, including 28 per cent who wanted the inflow and outflow of people from Australia to be the same. That is, they wanted nil net migration.
This outcome is despite 18 months of advocacy since the pandemic began on the part of the Government and business interests for a revival of Big Australia.
This advocacy has fallen on deaf ears.
The report sets out the data and then goes on to analyse their implications for the 2022 Federal election.

Blog post, 4 May 2021
Bob Birrell’s op ed from the Herald Sun, Feds must resist visa push from business, published 26 April 2021 is now online.