The 457 visa temporary migration program was singled out for being poorly regulated and allowing employers to import and exploit large pools of unskilled workers, with skills not in high demand.
That raised fears an “uncapped” 457 visa program was undercutting the wages of incumbent Australians, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia Council said.
The current 457 visa system inappropriately allowed employers, rather than evidence, to determine which occupations were in shortage, the report said.
“Currently a social media advertisement, of indeterminate length of time, is sufficient evidence to justify a labour shortage, suggesting the pendulum has swung too far towards a market driven migration program,” it said.
“An over-reliance on poorly regulated, market driven components of the program and the very substantial pools of relatively unregulated temporary migrants create opportunities for exploitation, as a growing number of high-profile examples have proven, while also having economic consequences for some incumbent Australians.”
A Senate inquiry this year looked at the exploitation of temporary visa holders, with the 7-Eleven franchise accused of systemic wage fraud, paying less than the minimum and fabricating payroll records.
However, Australia’s migration program was world leading, perceived to have contributed to the economic development of the nation and had historically enjoyed strong community support, CEDA chief executive Stephen Martin said.
“Unfortunately … fears about migration, globalisation and digital disruption have spawned the emergence of political parties with skewed perceptions on the economic and social benefits of immigration, and threaten to undermine Australia’s longstanding migration program,” the report said.
Professor Martin said annual permanent migration intakes could be doubled over the next 40 years to help boost the population in northern Australia to four to five million by 2060, which needed to happen to grow the economy to capitalise on Asia’s economic prosperity.
The total number of permanent visas issued in 2014-15 to migrants was 202,853.
CEDA also said governments had to act to address the impacts of population growth, including immigration, on services, infrastructure provision, urban congestion and environmental degradation.