Australia leading the world in skilled migration

According to a consultant to the OECD who advises on migrant labour to meet global skills shortages, and is  a world authority on skilled labour migration, Australia is leading the world in removing barriers for foreign workers with an agenda for ready recognition of overseas credentials which is “radical in global terms”,

The country’s skilled migration program had undergone a revolution from permanent to temporary entry and from points-tested to employer-nominated as the dominant basis of entry, said Lesleyanne Hawthorne, a consultant to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The recent decision to allow skilled US workers to get work licences on arrival instead of in the US, and the introduction of Enterprise Migration Agreements for large-scale resources projects, are the latest steps in a decades-long process of freeing up entry to the Australian workforce. This started under the 1980s Hawke government, said Professor Hawthorne, from the University of Melbourne.

Permanent skilled migration to Australia had almost quadrupled in the past 15 years.

The “privatisation” of the skilled migration program was well advanced, she said, as 70 per cent of Australia’s labour migrants were employer-sponsored by 2009.

Temporary skilled migrant arrivals surpassed permanent arrivals in 2007-08 at 110,570 compared with 108,500. Though they had since dropped back, it was clear Australia’s “old paradigm” of permanent migration was disappearing, Professor Hawthorne said.

Occupations preferred by employers for importing labour were significantly different from those selected by government. The top five professions selected by government in order were accounting, computing, architecture/building, engineering and nursing. For employers it was nursing, computing, business professionals, engineers and sales and marketing professionals. The choice of source countries also differed, with the government favouring Asian countries and employers favouring English-speaking countries.

In what the OECD has dubbed the “looming war for skills”, foreign credential recognition strategies were “a policy imperative”, Professor Hawthorne said.

The 19th-century credential recognition systems which had forced many professionals to wait sometimes for years before their overseas qualifications were recognised in Australia “are not fit for purpose in the 21st century”.

A spokesman for the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen, said there was a need for temporary workers to “help keep our economy strong”. By law, such workers could not be used to undercut local wages or labour costs, and the government was committed to identifying and penalising employers who did the wrong thing.

 

Category: Migration News
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