Australian authorities set to boost permanent skills migration number

by Mark Benson on April 26, 2012

in Jobs in Australia

Australia is under attack from skilled migrants!

The Australian government is rumoured to be ready to increase the number of skilled migrants allowed into Australia by at least 5000 in next month’s federal budget. This has certainly caught the attention of unions around Australia who are growing more and more concerned about the outlook for domestic workers against the ever growing influx of skilled workers. This is a situation which has been ongoing for some time now and is ultimately centred round the mining industry and the connected construction sector.

While there are some who are criticising the government’s policy, does the Labour government really have any alternative?

Skills shortages across Australia

There is no doubt that the vast majority of skills shortages are centred round the mining industry and the construction sector. These are two areas of the Australian economy which have been at the forefront of recent growth and will continue to be so for some time to come. Just a few days ago the Australian government openly acknowledged a policy which could see a significant influx of skilled construction workers from the USA as a means of filling a temporary lack of Australian workers in this particular area.

While there is no doubt that the Australian government, and mining companies in particular, are in desperate need of skilled workers to do specific jobs, should the authorities be investing more money in training the domestic workforce?

Short-term fix or long-term problem?

Rumours that the Australian government is looking to increase the number of skilled immigrants allowed into the country by 5000 will certainly assist with the short-term problem in some areas. Finding a balance between immediate skilled workers and training the domestic workforce has not only proved difficult for the existing government but also previous governments. If industries require workers now then the authorities need to find a way to attract those with specific skills and specific experience.

In some ways we can trace back the ongoing issues today to many years ago because ultimately previous governments should have injected more capital into training programs. It was not difficult to see that the Australian mining industry was gaining momentum some years ago and indeed ever-growing demand from China and India was there for all to see. Whether the authorities decided to take a short-term outlook on the situation as opposed to instigating a longer term investment program is open for debate.

Are there really genuine shortages?

Even the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union have held their hands up to suggest that the Australian government has little choice but to import skills and experience for “genuine shortages”. However, there is a growing feeling that the government is using the skilled migrants policy to improve the economic outlook for the country ahead of next year’s election. But is this fair?

While it would be wrong to suggest that the current government has not invested in workplace training programs there is a feeling that the option of importing skills and experience has proved too tempting. Let us not forget that the mining, and the mining construction industry, has very much made up the shortfall in more traditional tax income streams over the last couple of years. The introduction of further specific taxes aimed at the mining sector will also increase the percentage of overall income tax and charges received by the government from the sector. So in many ways the government will reap the benefits of investment in the mining industry, via a more liberal immigration policy for skilled workers, in the short term but what about the longer term?

Friction between the domestic workforce and overseas workers

In years gone by we have seen sporadic periods of friction between the domestic Australian workforce and those who have been “jettisoned” into the country to help to fill a specific skills shortage. In many ways when the economy was flying high and jobs were readily available across the board many people turned a blind eye to this particular growing problem. However, now that some of the domestic Australian workforce is struggling to make ends meet, yet seeing more and more overseas skilled workers arriving, this is sure to cause problems in the short to medium term.

While the government has argued on numerous occasions that there has been little choice but to import specific skills and specific experiences, we are coming towards the next general election. On the one hand the authorities will be happy to see a growing economy, very much out of sync with the more difficult worldwide economic environment, but they also need to keep traditional Australian voters happy and ensure that the workforce is as fully utilised as possible.

Why does Australia continue to import skilled workers?

The last few decades of the Australian economic story are littered with thousands upon thousands of skilled workers arriving in the country to make-up specific skills shortages. This is all part of a growing economy and there is no doubt that the Australian government has in the past had a more liberal immigration policy if you have skills or funds to invest. However, we are now looking at an Australian economy which has been exceptionally strong against the worldwide economic backdrop and continues to move ahead, albeit perhaps powered by the mining industry, in the most difficult of environments.

Surely the Australian government of today and of years gone by should have made more provisions for the training of the domestic workforce and the transfer of imported skills and experiences to those joining the workforce. Whether or not it is too late to invest in this particular area of training remains to be seen but the ever growing influx of overseas workers is starting to cause problems.

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see if the government goes ahead with the much rumoured 5000 personnel increase in the skilled migrants allowance. This is very much a double sided coin due to the fact it will assist the mining industry in the short term but will also place more pressure upon the domestic Australian workforce and potentially cause more friction. Trying to balance the need to import skills and experiences and investing in longer-term training programs is not easy and many believe that the government of today and of years gone by have got this particular situation very wrong.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

piwko007 May 10, 2012 at 10:42 am

So I have a chance. A skilled miner underground. Waiting for offers and sponsored visa. Regards for all .

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