A new report warns that the Gillard government’s Skilled Migration Program is based on incorrect assumptions, is out-of-date and requires major reform to implement its objectives.
The report produced by the Centre for Population and Urban Research (CPUR) at Monash University coincides with the row over the granting of temporary visas to 1700 foreign workers as part of an Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) approved by the government for Hancock Prospecting’s Roy Hill iron ore mine in WA.
The Roy Hill mine is expected to be the first of dozens of projects for which EMAs are approved, allowing Australian companies to import skilled and semi-skilled foreign labour on temporary 457 visas.
Following union pressure last week the Gillard government announced a ‘jobs board’ to give Australian workers information about jobs available in the mining sector.
With the Skilled Migration Program in the limelight, the CPUR’s latest report entitled ‘The 2012-13 immigration program: record numbers, city-bound’ sends a message that the government’s planning on migration matters is seriously awry.
The Program, set to increase the total number of migrants in 2012-13 to 190,000, has the purported aim of delivering skilled migrants to the resources industries, but the reality, says the CPUR, is that outside EMAs, none of the skilled permanent entry or temporary visa categories target such migrants.
Founding Director of the CPUR Bob Birrell – one of the authors of the report told Neos Kosmos:
“Employers can sponsor migrants regardless of the industry, occupation or location of their workplace.
“The result is that just over half of the migrants currently being visaed are locating in Sydney and Melbourne, rather than in the resource industry states.”
“Domestic Australian workers can expect increased competition for jobs from migrants at a time when there is little growth in employment in either Sydney or Melbourne,” said Mr Birrell.
The Labor Government plans to increase the permanent entry migration program to 204,000 (including humanitarian migrants) in 2012-13, a decision which is consistent with the Government’s stance since it came to power in late 2007.
The CPUR report concludes that the Program is based on two assumptions, one of which is fundamentally incorrect.
“One is that the minerals boom will require a huge increase in skilled workers who must be drawn in part from migration. The other is that, as a consequence of the resources boom, the rest of the Australian economy will surge, generating a nation-wide shortage of skilled workers. The first of these assumptions is correct, but not the second,” says the report.
“DIAC’s skilled visas are structured on the assumption that there are nation-wide shortages of skilled workers and that employers everywhere should be allowed to sponsor 457s and permanent migrants in any skilled occupation, industry or location in Australia.”
As a result, says Bob Birrell “most of the migrants in the record-high intake planned will end up in East coast cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne and will add to the stresses of Australian workers struggling to find work in a weak labour market.
“The Government’s Migration Program is out-of-date. It is now part of the problem. The new circumstances require a smaller and better targeted intake, which delivers scarce skills to the industries and locations which really need them.”