Over the last few weeks, the Jobs and Skills Summit took centre stage as both major political parties and various stakeholders were given an open mic on what they considered to be the key issues affecting Australians.
Whilst the announcements stemming from the summit around immigration provide hope for addressing the nation’s skills shortages, the precise mechanics as to how the migration program will change remains unclear.
That said, here’s what we know so far:
Review of the migration system
An in-depth review of the Australian migration program was announced, to be led by Professor Brian Schmidt, Vice Chancellor of the ANU. Minister O’Neil indicated that the government will not wait until the review is complete before making changes to the migration program, with some adjustments occurring as the review is progressing. The terms of reference for the review are yet to be published.
Professor Brian Schmidt will conduct a review of the purpose, structure and objectives of Australia’s migration system to ensure it meets the challenges of the coming decade.
Migration program planning levels 2022-23
The Australian Government announced an increase in the permanent migration program numbers for this financial year to:
- 195,000 places in total (up 35,000)
- 34,000 regional places (up 9,000)
- 31,000 state and territory places (up 20,000)
The Australian Government has provisioned $36.1 million to be invested in visa processing specifically increasing staff capacity by 500 within FY2023.
The Ministers announced areas of priority for the portfolio, which we summarise here:
Areas for immediate action
- Increasing the migration program numbers (as announced today)
- Improving the visa processing timeframes (as announced today)
- A proposal for international graduates of Australian universities to be able to work longer in Australia, post-graduation
- Extending the COVID concessions on student visa holder work rights until 2023, when they will cease.
Areas for urgent further action
- Moving away from temporary migration to permanency and citizenship, by developing these pathways.
- Reassessing the occupation lists to ensure they are fit for purpose
- Raising Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT)
- Addressing worker exploitation (2023 priority)
- Examining industry sponsorship
- Addressing regional labour shortages.
Establish Jobs and Skills Australia, an independent body to strengthen workforce planning
An interesting development that was largely relegated as an ancillary commitment by immigration pundits was the decision to establish Jobs and Skills Australia, which is purported to be an independent body to strengthen workforce planning and commission a study on a clean energy workforce.
Interestingly, another role for this body would be the analysis of skill shortages in setting priorities for the skilled migration program.
A move that we wholeheartedly support is the implementation of a Digital and Tech Skills Compact, with businesses and unions, to deliver ‘Digital Apprenticeships’ that will support workers to earn while they learn in entry-level tech roles, with equity targets for those traditionally under-represented in digital and tech fields. The Australian government hopes to deliver 1,000 digital traineeships, in the Australian Public Service, over four years, with a focus on opportunities for women, First Nations people, older Australians, and veterans transitioning to civilian life.
Other points of discussion
- It was cautioned by various speakers that the TSMIT increases must not be raised so high as to exclude occupations in shortage, with a suggestion that it could be indexed.
- LMT received considerable criticism from speakers.
- International students were recognised as providing a large labour market segment within Australia, higher than the permanent migration program and natural population growth.
- Widen the remit of the National Housing Infrastructure Facility, making up to $575 million available to invest in social and affordable housing. The funding can be used to partner with other tiers of government and social housing providers, and to attract private capital including from superannuation funds – this could address the woes of the construction industry and the lack of permanent housing available.
Essentially, it remains unclear what these measures will mean on a micro and macro level. Importantly, the immigration announcements remain silent on automation and improving productivity and simply advance an increase in program numbers being the answer to meeting current issues.
Although this might ring true in the short term, it appears that Australia is ultimately competing to improve productivity which none of the priorities ultimately addresses.
And so this leads one to ask a number of questions, which we hope eventually get answered, like:
🤔 Will the results of this summit lead to Australians having to up-skill in their existing industries or re-skill altogether?
🤔 Will there be any direction on the role of automation in the workforce, especially in blue-collar industries?
🤔 Will there be subsidies for any new industries to keep Australia competitive globally?
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