International student caps will hurt the economy while not fixing housing supply

03 July 2024

Further cuts to the intake of international students will only damage the economy, impacting all Australians and the broader business sector without fixing the housing supply shortage, according to the Business Council

Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Bran Black said international students have helped prop up a slowing economy, contributing almost a quarter of all GDP growth over the year to March 2024.

“Our economy is grinding to a halt, and we are concerned the Government is about to make the wrong short-term decision by cutting international students, which will have a lasting long-term negative hit to the economy, impacting all Australians,” Mr Black said.

“Student visas are dropping quickly, with a 36 per cent reduction from last year, this equates to 49,000 less visas granted, and is partly due to the Government crackdown on dodgy providers, particularly in the VET sector

“International students are the red herring of the housing debate, masking the real discussion on how we approve and build more homes, particularly in addressing state and territory planning bottlenecks.

“We only have marginally more students in the country than we did in 2019, pre-pandemic, and the fact is more than 75 per cent return straight home after they finish their study.”

Mr Black said higher education was Australia’s fourth largest export and was worth more than $48 billion to the economy and 200,000 jobs, with students contributing more to the economy than they take out.

“The BCA supports a sustainable migration strategy, which is linked to infrastructure and housing policies, while focusing on fixing the real problem by undertaking policy changes at a federal and state level to boost housing supply.

“We believe the Federal Government should create a national reform fund, just as the Keating Government did successfully in the 1990s with competition reforms, to incentivise states to speed up their planning and approval processes so more supply can be delivered faster.”

The BCA’s submission to the International Education and Skills Framework also outlines that overseas students are integral to Australia’s soft diplomacy, global reputation and contribution to capacity-building in emerging economies.

Mr Black said caps on international students could hurt our reputation as a destination of choice and irreparably damage the overall quality of our higher education sector. 

“This week the Government increased the cost of a student visa by 125 per cent, making Australia the most expensive country to apply for a visa in the world and that will mean less students and lower economic growth for our country.

“The BCA supports the broad principle of a diverse and sustainable international education sector that is resilient to market shocks and geopolitical disruption, but strenuous caps on international student numbers will undermine the principles set out by the Government’s Framework.” 


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