Matt Clemow: Population growth through migration can turbocharge South Australia’s economy

For every new South Australian, they need a roof over their head, 1.5 square metres of retail space and about 15 square meters of workspace. All of this means new jobs.

SOUTH Australia’s single biggest issue is that as a state we lack the critical mass to enable a thriving economy.

It is not enough to argue that if we have a greater population then there are fewer jobs for all — that is a fallacy.

If we want to talk about numbers, let’s think about what population growth means for the economy.

For every new South Australian, they need a roof over their head, 1.5 square metres of retail space and about 15 square meters of workspace.

All of this means new jobs. Construction jobs, retail jobs, manufacturing jobs, hospitality jobs, teaching jobs and so on. It is not fewer jobs for all, but actually more jobs for everyone.

So with this in mind, it is difficult to understand why we are not doing more to drive a new economic migration program in South Australia. Why are we not fighting the Commonwealth for a larger share?

In 1970, Australia had a big debate — the last national discussion — about how many people could live here. At that time our population was around 12.5 million people.

Since that time we have added another 11.5 million and we are richer, more prosperous and living longer than ever.

It would be hard to argue that our quality of life has been reduced on any substantive measure because of our increased population.
Universally across Europe, wages are flat or falling, people are losing their jobs or are consigned to years of underemployment. They are looking for a bright spot, an opportunity.

In South Australia, we desperately need people and there is a ready market of people who want to join us here in Adelaide or in our regional towns and become South Australians.

Why don’t we borrow an idea from the US and hold a migration lottery. Let’s invite people to nominate into a lottery to receive entry into South Australia.

We could accept 45,000 people over three years. Those that meet a set of strict criteria could nominate, and if their number comes in they would get to move to South Australia for 24 months, during which they could find a job.

If they find a job, they would be required to live in South Australia for, let’s say, a minimum of five years.

Sure, some will leave again but they will have added to the economy while they are here.

For the rest, they would add to the community just like the previous generations of migrants.

We are a minute past midnight as the population clock ticks over 24 million people and we need to ensure we are receiving our fair share of economic-driving migrants as early as we can.

Matt Clemow is the General Manager of the Committee of the Adelaide and an owner and director of Property and Consulting Australia.