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How Australia is betting on migrant-led recovery

30 January 20210 comments

As life slowly returns to normal after the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia is quietly putting migration at the centre of its economic recovery strategy.

As internal state borders reopen and restriction are relaxed, Australia appears to be on the road to recovery.

But the economy is still in need of a boost. The Reserve Bank of Australia has already slashed interest rates to rock-bottom levels and launched a massive quantitative easing program.

And we have already seen the jobkeeper and other programs implemented as an attempt to facilitate its economic recovery.

But Australia is also looking to its migrant communities and immigration programs to help dig the economy out of the doldrums.

We are offering permanent residency to migrants who are skilled in a number of specific sectors of the economy, some of which are on the front lines of the pandemic, where workers are hard to come by.

The government has identified 17 occupations on a Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) that will help the country recover from the crisis across the healthcare, construction and information technology (IT) industries.

Among the occupations, nurses are in high demand, with half-a-dozen different specialisations making the high-priority list for the so-called Skilled Migrant visas.

But other desirable occupations include: CEO/managing director; Construction project manager; Mechanical engineer; General practitioner; Resident medical officer’ Psychiatrist; Medical practitioner (necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)); Midwife; Registered nurse (RN) for aged care; RN for critical care and emergency; RN for medical’ RN for mental health’ RN for perioperative; RN NEC; Developer programmer; Software engineer and, Maintenance planner.

The government says the list is temporary in nature and could change as the economic recovery gets underway.

The visas fall under the umbrella of the 189 Skilled Independent Visa, which offers nearly 80,000 spots for the 2020-2021 period.

Migrants who receive the residency visa can live and work permanently anywhere of their choosing in Australia.

There are some conditions, however. They must be invited to apply and must be under the age of 45. The processing time for applications is between 11 months and 21 months, but once granted, the recipient can stay in the country permanently.

While there are tens of thousands of visas available, only 6,500 spots in what’s known as the “skilled stream” have reportedly been filled for the 2020/2021 period, according to reports.

This skilled stream is the most popular way for migrants to gain permanent residency in Australia.

There is competition, as a rising unemployment rate, which currently hovers at seven per cent in the country, has led to a push for locals to gain the necessary skills to fill the high-demand occupations in areas such as healthcare.

In a media release, the then Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge said that the priority was to both have citizens return to work with a focus on frontline healthcare workers to battle the pandemic as well as “skilled migrants who are going to be job multipliers to help the economy recover.”

Australia still has border restrictions in place, but Visa holders that are sponsored by an Australian business in one of the identified occupations can receive an exemption, though they will still have to undergo a two-week quarantine when they arrive in the country at their own expense.

The government has said that while the existing migrant occupation lists remain intact, they will give priority to the jobs identified on the priority list.

But, meanwhile, the fate of migrants who are filling gig economy work in Australia has been less secure.

There have been several deaths involving migrant food-delivery riders in the past few months who had come to Australia for a better life.

But according to surveys by the Scanlon Foundation and the Pew Center, most Australians see the value in accepting migrants both economically and culturally.

The Pew Center found more than two-thirds, or 68 per cent of Australian locals believe that migrants strengthen the country’s economy. And Australia is one of the world’s major migrant destinations alongside New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

The Scanlon Foundation found that more than 80 per cent of Australians though migration was good for the country.

The latest data shows that almost eight million people have settled here since 1945, with almost a third of the population comprising residents who were born overseas.