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Leading migration scholar says a population strategy must create a clear vision for the future of Australia

10 Nov 2011

A population strategy must create a clear vision for the future of Australia, says leading migration scholar Professor Graeme Hugo who recently presented to a group of academics and PhD students as part of the Discipline of Work  and Organisational Studies Speaker Series.

One of the world's foremost experts on migration, Professor Hugo spoke about  the opportunities and challenges posed by Australia's population dynamics and the enormous momentum of expectation generated by this, particularly in the private sector. He reflected on the necessity for compromise in order to  facilitate growth and sustainability and his disappointment at the lack of consideration of the future size, composition and distribution of the Australian population.

"It is an incredible opportunity lost," said Hugo. "A population strategy that points to the future of Australia is essential in ensuring sustainability and the continuation of prosperity."

He noted that Australia had one of the world's most rapidly growing populations in a global context of broadening demographic divide between high income and  low income countries. "Consideration of Australia's enormous concentration of population growth in older generations is fundamental to government planning. He spoke of the increasing diversification of migration and the multiple implications of the ageing population.

Professor Hugo said: "Baby boomers make up over one-quarter of the population and over 40 percent of the work force. Age is the issue which needs to be considered in population strategy for the future."

Professor Hugo's presentation preceded extensive questions from the audience and discussion over international influences on population policy, the importance of increasing participation as an opportunity for social inclusion and the significant cultural transformation that is a consequence of the ageing population. He emphasised the importance of discussion rather than debate in discourse over the population strategy and the need for collaboration, co-operation, immediate action and a conceptual shift.

"A population strategy must create a vision and a scenario that can be shared by the entire population," he said. "I think there is considerable potential for and a great dividend possible from a bipartisan approach to these issues."

Professor Hugo

Professor Hugo is an ARC Australian Professorial Fellow, Professor of Geography and Director of the National Centre for Social Applications of  Geographical Information Systems at the University of Adelaide. He was recently the Chair of Advisory Committee on Demographic Change and Liveability, one of three panel reports to the Sustainable Population Strategy for Australia released in May 2011 and is author of over 300 books, scholarly articles in journals and chapters in books as well as a remarkable number of conference  papers and reports.