What Australia’s migration figures mean for the digital economy

The latest ABS data on migration shows that we are taking the first tentative steps to recovery; however, the impact on the digital market will not be the silver bullet to rising costs.

Australia’s overseas migration is now positive for the first time since the border closures due to the Covid 19 pandemic. However, the turnaround is minor compared to the 2019 numbers. The ABS’s latest release of population estimates revealed that Australia’s population grew by 0.25% in the December 2021 quarter and by 0.5% through 2021. 

Low Skill Service Markets hit the hardest.

Migration is essential to Australian economic prosperity, though the impact affects some market segments more than others. For example, when Australia’s borders closed, the most significant drop in numbers came from international students. As a result, the markets they worked in lost a considerable pool of workers. 

Another massive pool of talent that dried up was working holidaymakers such as backpackers. The eradication of these talent pools hit the Accommodation, Food Services, Support Services and Agriculture segments extremely hard, forcing many businesses to close, reduce hours or, in some cases, go into administration.

Less impact on Digital and ICT Services

Government intervention with programs like Job Keeper certainly saved the broader economy from flatlining during the pandemic, but the ICT industry and Digital firms thrived. There are several reasons why our Industry has continued to succeed despite the resource shortages. These include:

Visa Protections

Our Industry relies more on tertiary-qualified staff, so many foreign workers in our sector qualified for the 482 Temporary Skill Shortage Visa. In addition, the Australian Government expanded the Visa Program to include more countries to ensure key industries did not shut down through 2020/21.

Our Friends across the Tasman

Over half of the international workers in the Australian Information, Media and Technology segment are from over the pond in New Zealand. These workers were allowed to stay due to Australia’s Special Category Visa with New Zealand. 


Whilst many industry segments were hit hard by the pandemic, ICT was not since we were the first group to embrace working from home utilising video, file sharing and virtual meeting technology.

Embracing Offshore Teams

The ICT Industry was quick to adopt the technologies above since they had been using them to integrate offshore teams into their businesses and projects. In addition, the pandemic accelerated offshoring since the work-from-home mandates in Victoria and New South Wales meant organisations were engaging with staff domestically and internationally in the same way.

What does this mean for the Industry?

Despite the pandemic’s lockdowns and economic impact, Australia’s technology workforce grew in 2021. We grew by 64,700 workers to a total of 870,000. This trend is expected to continue, with ACS expecting a head count of 1.2 million by 2027.

Whilst universities are coming back online, there will still be an extremely tight ICT labour market in Australia for the next few years. Increased migration and returning Australian workers will help. However, these are usually mid-level or higher workers. So for entry and low-level roles, the shortage will be around for some time.

So what can be done to compete in this high-demand market? We’ve outlined a few suggestions below:

Look to an RPO Partner

Recruitment Process Partners can help find you talent in a competitive market; however, they provide more value than straight recruitment. An RPO partner will provide strategic hiring advice and recommendations on where to hire, coordinate onboarding and help keep your staff retention rates high. 

Retain and Train

Why go to market If you don’t need to? With the strong employment market, work hard to retain the current staff and train them to pick up the required skills.

Embrace Diversity

It should come as no surprise, but the best talent wants to work in the best workplaces. Embracing diversity and creating an environment where people can feel valued and protected will ensure they stay longer with you and help your organisation be an employer of choice.

Look at managed offshore solutions.

Many organisations have shied away from offshoring due to the new jurisdiction’s cultural, legal and hiring issues. A managed offshore or MangedOps model removes these issues, allowing you to treat the staff as your own, with a partner taking care of the day-to-day issues like hiring, payroll, hr and development. These models provide access to a larger talent pool, enabling you to hire technically strong staff at much lower prices than competing for staff in Australia. They are your staff to manage, but with a partner taking care of the difficulties. 


Digital technology has become crucial to Australian businesses, and technology workers are vital to realising the digital economy’s opportunities. Talk to us today if you struggle to scale your digital teams to meet your ambitions.