Skilled Migrants Illustrative image

CEDA report calls for skilled migration overhaul

Dispelling many myths, economic modelling undertaken by CEDA in its latest research report has found that immigration to Australia has not harmed the jobs and earnings of local workers.

CEDA’s report, Effects of temporary migration, examines the impact of immigration and recent trends in temporary migration including temporary skilled migration.
“There are currently around two million people in Australia on temporary visas including students, working holiday makers, skilled workers and New Zealand citizens. This is a significant number that should be well understood, transparently managed and appropriately factored into community planning,” , CEDA CEO, Melinda Cilento said.

CEDA’s report has found that migration to Australia in recent decades has been positive for the labour market, and the outcomes from temporary skilled migration were particularly positive,” Ms Cilento said.
CEDA’s analysis shows that temporary skilled migration is important in delivering benefits to business, the economy more broadly and to the existing workforce. But due to frequently raised concerns about the impacts of temporary skilled migration changes to the scheme, including most recently the abolition of the 457 visa class have been made by the government.

“Our research has found that key concerns around temporary skilled migration, such as impacts on local workers as a result of visas such as the 482 and its predecessor the 457, are unfounded” Ms Cilento said.

The average base salary for a skilled temporary visa holder is quite high at $95,000, meaning these workers are unlikely to undercut local employment terms and conditions. In addition, they are a small group, with temporary skilled migrants of working age accounting for less than one per cent of Australia’s labour force. However, often unpredictable change to this visa category has come at the cost of undermining the ability of business to undertake workforce planning with certainty.

“At a time when more businesses are finding it difficult to source the skills they need, strengthening and providing greater transparency and certainty around temporary skilled migration would support business investment and productivity”, Ms Cilento adds.

The report suggests changes be made to the skilled visa streams as an important part of coronavirus recovery program by making Australia more attractive place for skilled workers to migrate. Along with boosting Australia’s image in the world, the program, particularly in light of the recently announced Global Talent Hunt Taskforce, can really take advantage of stricter migration programs of other countries like the US, leading to a faster economic recovery in Australia.

Ms Cilento said while CEDA report confirms the positive impact of temporary skilled migration it was important to ensure that the broader community had confidence in the system and that the training levies paid by businesses recruiting skilled migrants were being effectively used to build in demand skills locally.

CEDA report recommends changes to improve transparency and efficiency in the temporary skilled migration system to deliver the dual benefits of improving community confidence in the system and ensuring business can access the skills they need,” she said.

“Skilled migration supports business investment and productivity which are vital for keeping our economy strong.

“Incomes in Australia have been stagnant and lifting productivity can help lift incomes across the community.”

Ms Cilento said there are actions that can be taken immediately to improve the system and make it easier for businesses to get the skills they need now and in the future:

  • Increasing transparency of data and methods used in determining professions for the skilled occupation list;
  • Ensuring occupation codes used to assess skill shortages align with evolving labour trends to ensure temporary skilled migration is responsive to emerging skill needs;
  • Introducing a dedicated path for intra-company transfer of employees to Australia; and
  • Better aligning the Skilling Australia Fund Levy to alleviate the skill shortages driving the need for skilled migration.

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