Three immigration solutions for worker shortages from Victorian and NSW business lobby

Jul 21, 2022
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The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and Business NSW have proposed three immigration solutions to address worker shortages.

But would these ‘solutions’ work or actually make things worse.

The first ‘solution’ is to “reward those international workers on temporary visas that are due to expire in the next 12 months with a further automatic two-year extension that is rolled over and requires no application or fee, thereby easing pressure on our migration system”.

Precisely which international workers on temporary visas this refers to is not clear.

There were approximately 1.89 million people on temporary visas in Australia at end May 2022.

While this ‘solution’ would require the Minister to find the offsetting budget savings to pay for the lost revenue (which goes to Consolidated Revenue and not to the Department), it would not add a single worker to the current workforce.

It would, however, create other issues.

For example, for people on a skilled temporary entry visa, could the Department extend the visa without confirmation that the sponsoring employer will continue to support the worker, employ the worker in a skilled job and continue to pay the relevant minimum salary?

Or could the employer argue employer sponsorship obligations are not applicable if the Department automatically extends the visa without confirming the employer sponsorship?

It could also mean students getting a two year extension on their visa without actually being enrolled to study. That would increase students abandoning study and risk putting them into long-term immigration limbo.

The second ‘solution’ is “to motivate international students to return to our shores and those who are here to stay longer. The government should implement longer temporary graduate visas of four years and at the same time maintain the temporary relaxation of working hours for existing student visa holders while there remains a critical labour shortage”.

This makes no reference to the recent decision to relax pathways for Vocational Education and Training (VET) students to a two year temporary graduate visa without having to demonstrate a qualification in a relevant skilled occupation.

It makes no reference to the recent decision by the NZ Government to tighten this same pathway due to concerns about unscrupulous VET colleges.

It also makes no reference to the recent DHA announcement that it is seeing very large amounts of fraud in the offshore student visa application caseload, particularly those applying for VET visas.

The changes Australia has made to its student visa arrangements, including unlimited work rights, is trashing the reputation of Australia’s international education industry. It will inevitably lead to even more fraud in the caseload and more unscrupulous VET colleges.

Pushing the Government to further trash the reputation of Australia’s international education industry would be making a very bad situation even worse.

Australia’s international education industry should be about quality education and attracting high performing students not about selling unsponsored work visas.

The third ‘solution’ is to “encourage skilled migrants back into Australia and support more employers to sponsor migrants by making the visa process easier, cheaper and faster”.

This makes a lot more sense but should be pursued as a holistic package of reforms – a tripartite bargain between employers, unions and governments.

The extraordinary thing about the Opinion piece from VCCI and Business NSW is the complete lack of reference to the measures employers will take to improve the situation.

It’s as if employers have no role in finding the skilled workers they need.

There is no reference in the Opinion piece to the massive levels of complaints to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) about exploitation and abuse of migrant workers.

No reference to the unwillingness of employers to sponsor the tens of thousands of skilled workers already in Australia many of whom have completed extensive Australian qualifications.

No reference to the massive labour trafficking scam of the past seven years abusing the asylum system.

And finally, no reference to the record levels of corporate profits as a portion of GDP and the record low wage portion of GDP.

The wage portion of GDP has been declining for over 50 years.

Surely it is time for employers to use these record profits to increase wages to attract more people, including from overseas, into the labour force?

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