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Abstract

Skilled migration has long been at the forefront of policies for engendering population and regional economic growth in developed nations like Australia. Indeed a rapid growth in the size of the skilled migrant intake during past thirty years has seen skilled migration visa numbers outstrip the combined permanent intake from other migration streams. The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) and State Specific Regional Migration (SSRM) schemes have been enacted and progressively altered in order to attract skilled migrants to regional areas of Australia. Nevertheless, population and economic growth are becoming increasingly concentrated into regional hotspots, particularly across the north of the country, raising questions about the efficacy of these programs to address skill needs in industries outside the resource sector, where a spatially-distributed demand for skilled workers is emerging. In light of overall pessimism in existing literature which points to skilled migrant ‘leakages’ from regional Australia to larger cities, this study aims to provide an up-to-date assessment of the contributions of the RSMS and SSMS programs for attracting and retaining skilled migrants and their families to the Northern Territory of Australia. We conducted online surveys with recent migrants to the jurisdiction through a combination of open and closed questions. The results provide positive indications about the demographic, labour force and retention contributions of the programs with high rates of retention evident overall and demographic contributions including a female-biased migrant cohort and high rates of partnering. From a policy perspective, our findings suggest that skilled migrants are contributing to population stability in the face of high population turnover and an increasing male bias across the north of Australia. Nevertheless, the study reminds regional areas that future growth and sustainability will require concerted and innovative approaches to planning and development as global competition for skilled migrants increases.

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