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Australia needs temporary skilled migrants – CEDA report

21 August 20190 comments

A new report seeking to dispel the myths around temporary working visas claims that immigrants have not driven wages down nor taken jobs from locals.

The report by the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) says temporary skilled visas holders account for less than one per cent of Australia’s 13.5 million strong labour force and that Australia will need temporary skilled migration to fill skill shortages as labour demands changes and industries evolve.

The report, titled ‘Effects of temporary migration: Shaping Australia’s society and economy’, is a response from the business peak body to claims that the temporary skilled visa has led to exploitation of workers and visa rorting.

While recognising the need for reforms and monitoring, the CEDA reports says skilled workers are only 147,339 of the almost two million temporary migrants in Australia.

It said the largest groups were New Zealand citizens (673,198), students (486,934) and those on bridging visas (176,216).

The report says that more than half of temporary skilled migrants worked in four industries: accommodation and food service; information, media and telecommunications; professional, scientific and technical services; and, other services such as professional care and mechanical repair.

The top four occupations granted visas in 2017-18 were: programmer/developer; ICT business analyst; university lecturer; and, cook.

“Temporary skilled migrants are excluded from free or subsidised government services but still contribute to tax revenues, resulting in a net benefit to government budgets,” the report says.

The top three citizenships of visa holders are the United Kingdom, India and the Philippines and 96 per cent are under the age of 50, compared to just 67 per cent of the Australian population.

The report says that between 2000-01 and 2014-14, about 520,000 temporary skilled visa holders – or about 55 per cent – transitioned to a permanent visa.

“Australia’s temporary skilled migration scheme has faced significant scrutiny and has been subject to constant change and review,” the report says.

“This creates significant uncertainty, undermining the benefits of this important program to business and the wider economy,” it says.

The report recommended improving the process of identifying eligible occupations for temporary skilled migration through publication of data and methods, and better classification of occupations.

It proposed embedding stability of the scheme through more structured and independent evaluation at set intervals and introducing administrative efficiencies, including for intracompany transfers of employees and labour market testing.

It also recommended aligning the use of the Skilling Australians Fund Levy to identified areas of emerging skills shortages, to ensure training initiatives alleviate skill shortages driving skilled migration.

“Improving predictability of the scheme and increasing understanding of the benefits will help reduce the scheme’s exposure to politicking and ensure important economic benefits for the economy and Australians more broadly, are realised,” the report said.