Rising wages, skilled migration at center of attention at start of Australian jobs summit

Australia said on Thursday it would create 180,000 additional free places for students seeking technical skills in a package worth A$1.1 billion (752 million), amid widespread labor shortages and business calls for more migrants to enter the country.

The recently elected centre-left Labor government hopes to address rising inflation and falling real wages at the two-day meeting, with the Albanian saying “compromises must be talked about, sacrifices must be made”.

Sydney, the nation’s largest city, faces a prolonged strike by rail workers and protests by nurses demanding higher pay as Australian business groups and unions gather in the national capital for a summit.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the summit was being held at a “critical moment” for the economy.

“This summit is only a step – an important step, yes, but a step. Our expectations are sober and realistic,” Chalmers said.

The government will announce the results of the summit on Friday, which will indicate immediate steps to be taken.

With Australia’s unemployment rate at a 50-year low of 3.4%, the central bank is seeing inflation rise to a three-decade high, and rate hikes will be necessary, which will severely dampen growth. Wages are also rising, but not as fast as inflation.

An explosion in visa processing times in Australia has left a million eager workers stranded, adding to a severe workforce shortage.

Businesses have urged the government to raise the annual immigration cap of 160,000. “It will be an important part of the conversation” at the summit, Chalmers said.

“There’s an incentive to dispose of it responsibly,” he said. “But (it) should never be a substitute for educating Australians for the opportunities here.”

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($1 = 1.4620 Australian Dollar)

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