This week I hosted the City of Melbourne’s 10th Citizenship Ceremony for 2022 at City Hall. It is always an incredibly joyous occasion when we are privileged to welcome new Australians, most of whom have taken years to achieve their dream of permanent residency.
It is also a time when I reflect on our migration process and ways we can make it easier for wanted workers to reach Australia.
Australia is struggling to regain pre-pandemic migration figures, especially in the flow of skilled migration. We received between 110,000 and more than 125,000 skilled immigrants annually between 2011 and 2019. That number dropped to 89,063 in fiscal year 2021-22.
The Department of the Interior’s Migration Program Report 2021-22 shows that registered nurses, software and application programmers, and accountants make up the top three occupation categories of skilled migration.
These are essential roles that are crucial to our healthcare system and the economy as a whole.
However, our city desperately needs workers who are traditionally underprivileged in the visa program process. Restaurant, bar and cafe owners tell me they are in dire need of waiters, baristas, bartenders and kitchen helpers. In other important sectors of the city, we need gallery staff, theater ushers, floor workers, security guards, cleaners and many more. For our merchants, these are essential workers.
In the last three years, the daily “rhythm” of the city has completely changed. Before the pandemic, merchants could rely on the constant flow of travelers on weekdays heading to and from the CBD. Now Wednesdays and Thursdays bring our busiest foot traffic, while the nighttime economy has taken off in unexpected areas. Southbank continues to surpass pre-pandemic visitor levels by a staggering number each week, while Lygon Street and China Town are busier at weekends than before the pandemic. When we host events, the city is flooded with record crowds.
We have worked hard with our merchants to come back strong, reducing our store vacancy from 31% in November 2021 to 17% in September of this year. Our gross local product for the coming fiscal year is expected to reach an impressive $120 billion.