Immigration package to ease skills shortage
Sunday, 17 February 2008
The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, today unveiled a package of migration measures designed to address Australia’s skills and labour shortages.
Senator Evans said the package had the potential to provide thousands of additional workers in the short term, especially for the labour-strapped mining and construction industries.
An External Reference Group made up of industry experts will also examine how selected temporary skilled migration measures can help ease labour shortages in the medium to long term.
Senator Evans said the package would complement the Rudd Government's move to fast-track the establishment of Skills Australia in order to help lift the productive capacity of the Australian economy and fight inflation.
The Minister said that concerns had been raised by the states and a number of industries regarding their ability to rapidly start up new and significant projects because of skilled labour shortages.
'Skills and labour shortages are also a major cause of inflationary pressures in the economy,' Senator Evans said.
As an immediate measure, the Skilled Migration program will be increased by 6000 places in 2007-08. The increase will be made up of permanent employer sponsored visas and General Skilled Migration visas.
'Employer sponsored visas are the highest priority because they put a migrant worker directly into a skilled job,' Senator Evans said.
The General Skilled Migration program selects people with the right skills and qualifications to work in industries where labour is in demand.
The additional 6000 places will bring to 108 500 the total number of permanent visas granted under the Skill Stream of the migration program in 2007-08.
Senator Evans said that negotiations were also underway with other countries to expand the reciprocal Working Holiday visa program for young people.
'The tourism and primary industry sectors in particular will benefit as the pool of young people coming to Australia on working holidays continues to grow,' Senator Evans said.
The number of people on Working Holiday visas has grown from 85 200 in 2001-02 to 126 600 in 2006-07.
To specifically assist the construction industry, changes to the Working Holiday visa program will enable people who undertake at least three months work in the construction sector in regional Australia to extend their 12 month working holiday visa by another year.
This provision is already available to people who work in primary industry in regional Australia, which includes the agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining industries.
Senator Evans said that the number of people who had extended their working holiday visa by another year under the scheme had almost trebled from 2690 in 2005-06 to 7,990 in 2006-07 and was expected to increase by 51 per cent this financial year to more than 10 000.
'It is estimated that extending this working holiday visa concession to work in the construction industry in regional Australia could attract a further 5000 workers to that industry alone,' Senator Evans said.
'Addressing Australia's long-term skills shortages is vital to tackling the inflationary pressures left behind by the Howard-Costello government.'
Senator Evans said the construction, major infrastructure, tourism and the resources sectors would be the focus of the External Reference Group.
'The group will provide me with specific advice on ways to ensure the temporary work visa system, also known as the subclass 457 visa program, operates as effectively as possible in contributing to the supply of skilled labour,' Senator Evans said.
The Temporary Business (Long Stay) visa (subclass 457) allows businesses to recruit skilled labour from overseas for temporary entry to Australia for between three months and four years.
In addition, the reference group will advise the Minister on current and anticipated future employment trends and the need for overseas recruitment in the identified sectors.
The Minister said the group would ensure any recommended initiatives would complement existing government labour market skills strategies.
The industry experts who will make up the reference group are:
Peter Coates (Chairman) – Former Chairman, Minerals Council of Australia; Chairman, Xstrata Australia.
Melinda Cilento – Deputy Chief Executive, Business Council of Australia.
Tim Shanahan – Director, Energy and Minerals Initiative, University of Western Australia; Former CEO, WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy.
The reference group will provide an interim report to the Minister by 14 March with a final report due in April.
Full biographies of the members of the reference group are attached.
In addition to the new migration measures, Skills Australia will oversee the Rudd Government's commitment to providing an additional 450 000 training places over the next four years and 820 000 over the coming decade.
The first 20 000 of the Rudd Government's additional training places will be available by April.
Last update: 20 December 2010 at 14:39 AEST