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Australia and the Asian Ascendancy: Why Upskilling is Not Necessary to Reap the Rewards

Benjamin Herscovitch | IA137 | 19 February 2013
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  • Australia’s Asian embrace: Australia’s exports to Asia are almost triple its exports to the rest of the world, and 7 out of Australia’s top 10 trading partners are in Asia.

  • Exporting to Asia’s burgeoning middle-classes: With the number of middle-class consumers in Asia set to rise to 3.2 billion by 2030, analysts predict Australia could boost its exports to Asia by as much as $275 billion over the next decade if it invests in Asia-relevant capabilities.

  • Upskilling Australia for the Asian Century: In a bid to increase Australia’s Asia-relevant capabilities, politicians and interest groups are proposing policies worth billions of dollars, including increasing the number of Australian students studying in Asia and improving the quality of Asian studies in Australian schools.

  • The bullishness of Australian businesses on Asia: Despite concerns Australia has inadequate Asia-relevant capabilities, 90% of Australian businesses say their dealings in Asia are ‘living up to expectations’ or performing ‘better than expected.’

  • Australia’s Asia-relevant capabilities non-problem: At most, a mere 7% of Australian businesses say a lack of a specific Asia-relevant capability is adversely affecting their level of expenditure or expansion in Asia.

  • Will-o’-the-wisp Asian opportunities: Claims from interest groups that Australian businesses would perform better in Asian markets if they had increased Asia-relevant capabilities are highly speculative and do not justify a new national project aimed at upskilling Australians-at-large.

  • Australia’s abundant Asia-relevant capabilities: There are 1.7 million Asian-born Australians and 2.2 million Australians speaking Asian languages at home, while 7 of the top 10 source countries in Australia’s permanent migration program are in Asia.

  • The Depth of Australia’s Asia-relevant capabilities: Given that Asian nations account for 8 of the top 10 General Skilled Migration and Business Skills visa grants by country, the number of Australians with highly sophisticated Asia-relevant capabilities is steadily growing.

  • An Asian Australia set for success: With a multicultural society equipped with a large and expanding pool of Asia-relevant capabilities, Australia already has the human capital necessary to prosper in the Asian Century.

Benjamin Herscovitch is a Policy Analyst at The Centre for Independent Studies.

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