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Temporary skilled visa fears unfounded – CEDA report

18 July 20190 comments

Constant changes to temporary skilled migration schemes like the 457 visa may have been more harmful than the visas themselves, according to a report by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).

Titled “Effects of temporary migration”, the CEDA report said “key concerns around temporary skilled migration, such as impacts on local workers as a result of visas such as the 482 and its predecessor the 457, are unfounded”.

“The average base salary for a skilled temporary visa holder is quite high at $95,000, meaning these workers are unlikely to undercut local employment terms and conditions,” the report said.

CEDA CEO Melinda Cilento said that temporary skilled migrants were a small group, accounting for less than one per cent of Australia’s labour force.

But skilled temporary migrants were important to Australia’s tech sector: the top two occupations recruited from overseas in 2017-18 were developers and ICT business analysts, the report said.

Ms Cilento said that changes to visas for temporary migrants have proven harmful to local business. She labelled recent policy “unpredictable change” and said it has had the effect of “undermining the ability of business to undertake workforce planning with certainty”.

“At a time when more businesses are finding it difficult to source the skills they need, strengthening and providing greater transparency and certainty around temporary skilled migration would support business investment and productivity,” Ms Cilento said.  

Temporary migration has often been used by the tech sector to alleviate skills shortages.

But in the DEDA report pointed to supply and demand as a justification for temporary migration and highlighted the technology sector’s needs.

The report found there were long-term demands coming down the pipeline that look impossible to meet without temporary skilled migration.”

For example, Australia will need 18,000 more cyber security workers by 2026, against current supply of 500 graduates a year,” the report said.

The report makes further arguments for temporary migration, citing the 6000 skilled workers who helped the resources industry deliver with the last mining boom which contributed to the buoyant economic conditions Australia enjoyed as the GFC ravaged much of the rest of the world.

And it says those economic conditions brought more backpackers and students who themselves contributed to the economy.

“Temporary migrants also contribute to the economy by paying taxes and spending in the communities in which they live, increasing demand for goods and services and supporting local economic activity and jobs,” Ms Cilento said.

The report cited the case of hearing device company Cochlear, widely considered as a great example of Australian technology innovation.

“Cochlear utilised temporary skilled migration for a decade to overcome inadequate engineering skills in advanced manufacturing,” it said

“These engineers built up Cochlear’s advanced manufacturing skill base to the point that it has a stable Australian workforce,” the report said.

But the report does call for improvements to temporary skilled migration schemes.

“Further work is needed to improve the development of skilled occupation lists to enhance confidence and ensure that lists are as reflective as possible of genuine skills shortages in the economy,” the report says.

It also calls for a dedicated streamlined path for intra-company transfers that would better promote the international competitiveness of multinational companies in Australia by giving companies greater flexibility in how they source and develop their best global talent.