Victoria’s building industry took a $370 million hit last year as the COVID-19 crisis locked international students out of Australia, causing cash-strapped universities to stop building, and apartment projects to stall.
The Property Council of Australia said the knock-on effects from the absence of overseas students had cost the state’s economy more than $1 billion and kept 13,000 Victorians out of work.
The Master Builders Association of Victoria has added its voice to calls from business, the education sector and local government for the state and Commonwealth to find a way to get Victoria’s $13 billion international education trade moving again, saying its absence is hurting the economy.
Monash University cut $100 million from its capital works program in 2020 across its four campuses, and private developers across the city walked away from the previously lucrative business of building student accommodation.
Data published this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show how some of those decisions hit the construction industry, with the value of building commencements in the private education sector falling from more than $466 million in the first three months of 2020, to about $94 million in the last three months of the year, a plunge of nearly 80 per cent.
The Property Council’s Victorian executive director, Danni Hunter, said it was vital to the property industry and the entire state economy that governments came up with a plan to “fast-track the return of international students, and for putting Melbourne’s education sector back on the map.”
“This will have positive flow-on effects for the Victorian economy, and will help drive a property-led economic recovery,” Ms Hunter said.
But the state and federal governments cannot agree on the best way to get international students back into the country, with Victoria wanting to make space for a limited number of them within the existing arrivals cap, while Canberra wants caps increased to accommodate students.
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