The agency in Australia that identifies skill shortages which need to be filled by overseas workers is being abolished.

The Australian government has confirmed that the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency will become part of the Department of Industry. The transfer will take place next month.


The AWPA will amalgamate with the Department of Industry in July 2014​

The agency has played a key role in the Skilled Occupation List which all would-be overseas workers consult because if they get a job on the list, they have the right to apply for permanent residency in Australia.

Officials said that the transfer is in line with the government's plan to streamline its advisory processes. 'We respect and accept that the Government has the right to establish these new arrangements and as such we will work to ensure a smooth transition,' said Philip Bullock, chairman of the AWPA.

'The team has worked hard to build a solid body of work over the last six years. Our national strategies, sectoral reports, economic modelling, as well as our policy and research documents, have been used by industry and governments at all levels to inform their policies and practices,' he added.

Other major contributions of the AWPA include its progress on a series of comprehensive national workforce development strategies, its initiation of key sectoral skills reports which uncover the needs of industries including retail, engineering and manufacturing, and its role in directing attention towards better use of skills in the workplace.

Backers say that while not every decision of the AWPA and its predecessor, Skills Australia, has been universally popular, the agency has provided an invaluable, independent voice. Opponents of the cuts say trimming red tape in this area is out of step with what other countries are doing.

They say that Australia could learn from the British approach to identifying and meeting domestic skill shortages.

According to Joanna Howe, lecturer in law at Adelaide University, instead of abolishing the one, independent, federal agency with expertise in this area, the government should be increasing its investment in the AWPA.

'This agency is critical to the integrity of Australia's permanent migration programme and its role should be expanded, as in the UK, to include the temporary migration programme, namely the subclass 457 visa,' she said.

'In addition to compiling the Skilled Occupation List, [the] AWPA should also put together the list of occupations for which the subclass 457 visa can be used. This would most definitely improve the efficacy of Australia's temporary labour migration programme,' she added.