Changes In Regional Migration

Skilled visa occupation lists overhauled to boost slowing economy

Australia’s skilled-migration ­occupation lists will be overhauled in a shake-up of foreign worker visas to drive a slowing economy and meet demand in delivering Scott Morrison’s $100bn infrastructure rollout.

The skilled migration occupation review, to be finalised by March next year, will be designed to focus on filling job vacancies in regional Australia and respond to the high-priority needs of key employment sectors.

In 2018-19, the Morrison government granted almost 82,000 skilled visas, with an even split across primary and secondary ­application types. Immigration data obtained by The Australian shows the top 10 occupations were dominated by the ICT sector, with more than 7600 visas granted for jobs including software engineers and testers, program developers and analyst programmers.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash told The Australian skilled migration remained a key driver of the national economy, which has come under pressure following a fall in consumer spending and the housing slowdown.


Senator Cash said it was crucial to attract foreign workers to “fill the jobs of today and tomorrow when they can’t be met by the domestic workforce”.

IT workers, chefs, university lecturers, GPs, cooks, restaurant managers, marketing specialists and resident medical officers dominate the current list of occupations granted visas.

“Skilled migration has always been a part of this country’s prosperity, but we need to ensure we are getting the right skilled ­migrants filling the skills shortages,” Senator Cash said.

Immigration Minister David Coleman said the migration program was important to ensure “employers can access workers to fill critical skills shortages”.

Mr Coleman said the occupation lists, which were last updated in March, were an important tool in “filling skills gaps in regional areas” and provide more certainty that businesses can “get the workers they need, when they need them”.

Prior to changes to the backpacker visa scheme last year, ­Nationals MPs and farming lobby groups were pressuring the government to implement a dedicated agriculture visa for temporary migrants.

“We’ve allocated 23,000 regional migration places, introduced two new regional visas and signed Designated Area ­Migration Agreements around the country to attract migrants to the regions, help towns grow and to fill some of the 60,000 job ­vacancies in regional Australia,” Mr Coleman said.

A labour market analysis and public consultation process will be conducted before Senator Cash makes recommendations to Mr Coleman on changes to the occupation lists. Mr Coleman will make a final decision by March.

The government is expected to design the new skilled migration lists to support its 10-year infrastructure stimulus package and accommodate a significant uptake in labour demands.

Senator Cash, who reiterated the Morrison government’s skilled migration policies were underpinned by the principle that Australian workers are considered first for jobs, said the consultation process with industry groups would be “broad and intensive”.

“This is all about ensuring Australia has a skilled workforce ready to build our nation-changing infrastructure program. We have heard from stakeholders who have identified a growing need in some sectors for skilled workers,” she said.

“We have heard these concerns and are committed to ensuring there are no barriers to Australia’s continued economic growth.”

The skilled migration lists, which include professions ranging from pilots and anaesthetists to roof plumbers and specialist farmers, underpin a range of employer-sponsored, points-tested and state-nominated visa programs.

September4, 2019

The Australian Newspaper