By Nicholas Hartman
Skilled migrants, especially those on temporary visas, have been “overwhelmingly net positive” to the Australian economy. That’s according to a report released today by the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).
Migrants have “not had a negative impact on either the wages or participation rates of Australian-born workers,” according to the report, found in The Guardian.
Despite this sentiment being backed up by economic evidence, the report has slammed the regulatory response. “[G]overnments have responded to community concern with a seeming revolving door of reviews, reports and frequent policy changes to Australia’s temporary skilled migration program,” the report says.
One such change was the replacement of the 457 visa with the temporary skill shortage visa scheme in Marc 2018. Malcolm Turnbull, the then prime minister, said the change was necessary because the 457 scheme had “lost its credibility” and the new visa scheme would ensure Australians had priority for Australian jobs.
The CEDA report said this change occurred with a lack of consultation, surprising the business community.
In response, the report had recommended a package of reforms. According to the Guardian, these include “introducing a streamlined path to make it easier for global companies to transfer employees to Australia; introducing a more transparent system for identifying areas of skill shortage; removing the requirement for labour market testing, which it says is “inflexible”; and getting the Productivity Commission to review the temporary skill shortage program at least every five years.”
It is also recommends that there be a change in how a levy is paid by businesses sponsoring a skilled migrant. Currently, the levy goes into the Skilling Australia fund. The report would rather the levy only have to be paid until a visa application is accepted, and the levy better used to target the specific skill shortage (the Skilling Australia fund is currently a general fund).
Less than 1% of the Australian workforce is on a temporary skilled working visa, and half of those are in just four industries. The top four occupations for granted visas were programmer or developer, ICT business analyst, university lecturer and cook.
55%, or 520,000 people, of temporary skilled workers obtained a permanent visa between 2000 and 2014. Since 2012, more than half of permanent skilled visas were given to people already in the temporary skilled worker scheme.
“Being able to access talent and skills from around the world is really important to how businesses drive competitiveness now,” CEDA chief executive Melinda Cilento said.
“If people are feeling like we’ve got skill gaps here and they can’t readily compliment them through temporary skilled migration into Australia, I think that’s certainly something that they would think about.
“We think that having skilled workers come to Australia, demonstrate their skills in the workplace, live in Australia for a time, demonstrate that it works for them as well as the business they’re working for is actually a positive thing.”