More cost-of-living relief on the cards

The federal treasurer has flagged more cost-of-living relief in the budget if the government can afford it.

Setting the scene for his second budget to be delivered on May 9, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the slowing global economy and higher interest rates would weigh on Australia's growth prospects.

While a recession is not expected in Australia, a third of the world's economies are anticipated to endure extended periods of contraction.

"Inflation remains our dominant concern even on the other side of its peak, as global price pressures coming at us from around the world continue to be felt around the kitchen table," Dr Chalmers said.

"We are in a stronger position than most countries but still more vulnerable than we'd like to be to international shocks."

The government is already taking steps to ease financial pressure on households, including electricity bill relief, cheaper childcare - due to come into force in July - and higher wages for aged-care workers.

"If there are additional measures we can afford to put in place of course we'll consider them," Dr Chalmers added.

But budget repair remains a key challenge for the Albanese government as demand for government services grows and the interest bill on government debt continues to balloon.

"We will maintain an emphasis on health and Medicare, and ageing and aged care, on women and wellbeing, and with a particular focus on tackling disadvantage," he said.

The long-term pressures on the budget are only expected to grow as population forecasts released last week show Australia ageing faster than expected due to the pandemic-induced halt in migration.

An ageing population will weigh on government finances as there will be higher demand for health care and other government services, and fewer people of working age to support the elderly.

The Business Council of Australia has called for higher levels of permanent migration as one solution to the pressures of an ageing population.

In a submission to Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil's review of the migration system, which was announced late last year, the BCA has suggested upping permanent migration uptake as a set percentage of population growth.

"When young and skilled workers migrate to Australia, they help fill skills gaps in our economy, offset the ageing population, and bring the knowledge and experience needed to support the growth of future industries," the submission says.

The government has already lifted the permanent migration cap from 160,000 to 195,000 in a bid to alleviate severe labour shortages gripping the nation.

The BCA also wants the occupation skill lists system for sponsoring workers in occupations with shortages to be simplified, including scrapping lists for workers paid more than $92,000.

The peak body also called for simplified labour testing, which is used to make sure businesses aren't overlooking local applicants, as well as better co-ordination between infrastructure planning and migration and a strengthened humanitarian visa program.