Australia’s skilled migration system has been in the news recently with the Commonwealth Government’s announcement that it is significantly tightening the main route for temporary skilled migration, the 457 visa. As with much of the recent policy around migration, this seems to be driven by the needs of Sydney and Melbourne, where governments are struggling to expand infrastructure (including housing) fast enough to match their rapidly expanding populations, whilst still ensuring business can access the skilled employees they need to grow.
South Australia, with its older, more slowly growing, population, and an economy still dealing with the impacts of two decades of structural reform, has somewhat different needs. This includes demographic challenges, with SA’s population having experienced a considerable degree of ‘hollowing out’ as younger working age South Australians moved interstate and overseas in the wake of the collapse of the State Bank.
SACES has just completed a research project looking at businesses skills gaps, and the the extent to which the migration system supports them in addressing them.
We found that despite South Australia’s above average unemployment rate, and a range of policies aimed at moving the unemployed and those out of the labour force into work, businesses reported that there remain a substantial number of vacancies which they could not fill from the local labour market, particularly in regional South Australia, forcing them to turn to the migration system. These unfilled vacancies are not just in the higher skill levels that have been the recent focus of the migration system, but extend down to much lower skill levels. These businesses also reported that the current migration system does not meet their needs.
For some businesses, the difficulty in recruiting labour was severe enough that they had resorted to filling permanent positions with travellers on working holiday visas – requiring them to recruit, induct and train new employees every 6 months.
The first report of this research project, which identifies the key economic and business development challenges faced by South Australia in light of the federal immigration policy environment, has just been released on the SACES website
The two subsequent reports prepared as part of this project extend the analysis to examine the ways in which current immigration policy settings do not meet the needs of South Australia or South Australian employers, and possible policy solutions, and will be released later in May.
Report 2 reviews the ways in which current Australian migration policy settings are not suited to South Australia’s needs, with a particular focus on four areas:
- the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT), which sets the minimum wages that migrants entering under the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) must be paid;
- the identification of occupations for inclusion in eligible (skilled) occupation lists for temporary and permanent skilled migration visas;
- Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) visas, which offer temporary or permanent residency to citizens of other countries wishing to invest or manage a business in Australia; and
- Graduate Temporary work visa provisions and (Simplified) Streamlined Visa Processing of student visa applications (including Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) test provisions) that define international students’ and graduates’ to access to education and work in Australia.
Report 3 concludes with suggestions for adapting the international migrant visa system to improve its responsiveness to changing economic environments and, specifically, capable of supporting the South Australian economy.
The research was funded by the following organisations:
- Migration Solutions
- Thomas Foods International
- RDA Murraylands and Riverland
- Shahin Enterprises
- Local Government Association of SA
- Education Adelaide
- The Population Institute of Australia
- The Urban Development Institute of Australia
- The Property Council SA
- Migration Institute of Australia
- BDO Australia
We are grateful for their support, as well as for all of the organisations who participated in the research.