POST 2 AUSTRALIA’S MIGRATION INTAKE MOVES UP ANOTHER NOTCH: BUT WESTERN AUSTRALIA STANDS OUT FROM THE CROWD.

Introduction

Immigration  Research Western Australia Updates – will be a regular feature of my Blog. In this Update I will discuss the outcomes of the State Government’s recent reforms to Migration policy. I will also present the most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) for Net Overseas Migration (NOM), NOM arrivals and unemployment, with the focus on Western Australia. I will provide an update on the Australian Government Migration Programme and evaluate the current policy setting.

Main Findings

  • The Western Australia Government had the lowest number of State Specific Regional Migration (SSRM) nominations to overseas migrants for the first five months of the financial year 2017-18.
  • The growth of SSRM visas has mushroomed since introduction when less than 1,000 visa grants where issued, to a total number of 511,667 visas granted by June 30, 2017.
  • From 2011-12 to 2015-16 over 17,000 Foreign Students gained permanent residence through the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme.
  • In 2016-17 the average number of total unemployed looking for full time work in WA stood at 63,000.
  • In 2016-17, Western Australia took in 53,000 Net Overseas Migration Arrivals, most are eligible for employment.
  • The Department of Immigration and Border Protection granted  835,662 Temporary visas in 2016-17 comprising offshore and onshore applicants (included Student, Temporary 457 and Working Holiday visas).
  • In 2016-17 Net Overseas Migration (NOM) made up 63.2% of Australia’s population growth.
  • Australia’s population growth rate stands at 1.6%, well above the World’s average and much higher than that of the World’s most populated countries India and China.
  • Australia’s NOM soared to 245,400 people amounting to a 27.1% rise or (54,400 more) than the previous year.
  • Australia’s  NOM arrivals in 2016-17 was vast; over half a million (552,900 people) an increase of 10.4 % on 2015-16.
  • In 2016-17, Australia granted 343, 035 Student visas the majority (82%) went to offshore applicants. Representing a 10.4% increase on the previous year, all Student visa holders are eligible to work in Australia.

The State Government’s Approach to Migration: Not Playing Follow the Rest of the Pack

The State Premier Mark McGowan’s pre-election pledge to cull the number of visa nominations under the State Specific Regional Migration Programme (SSRM) has certainly transpired. The State Government’s revision of the West Australia Skilled Migration Occupation List (cutting occupations from 178 to 18) has clearly had an impact. Table 1 reveals Western Australia had the lowest number of nomination invites to overseas migrants for the first five months of the financial year.  At 1.4% Western Australia overseas invitations is well below other State Governments.

The SSRM programme is designed for State and Territory Governments to sponsor and fast track overseas immigration. Therefore these visas consistently receive high numbers of applicants. For many years Western Australia remained in the Top 4 jurisdictions as the intended residence for all new Australian migrants in both the skill stream and family stream. This time the State of WA is not opening its doors up for more SSRM nominations. Maybe the State Government has taken a thoughtful approach with an eye on employment problems occurring at home (see Figure 4 below). [note] Australia. Department of Home Affairs. Migration programme statistics.Canberra: The Department, 2018. https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about/reports-publications/research-statistics/statistics/live-in-australia/migration-programme[/note]

Table 1. The number of migrants who received SSRM nominations , From July 1, 2017 to November 2017.

Visa subclass ACT NSW NT Qld SA Tas. Vic. WA Total
Skilled Nominated (subclass 190) visa 223 558 110 485 418 202 1030 0 3026
Skilled Regional (Provisional) (subclass 489) visa 0 396 107 174 992 270 4 0 1943
Business Innovation and Investment (subclass 188 visa) 5 252 0 186 64 4 892 63 1466
Business Talent (Permanent) (subclass 132) visa 0 38 0 99 264 3 18 35 457
Total 228 1244 217 944 1738 479 1944 98 6893
Percentage 3.30% 18.00% 3.10% 13.70% 25.20% 6.90% 28.20% 1.40% 100.00%

Note. Retrieved from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.[note] Australia. Department of Home Affairs. Migration programme statistics.Canberra: The Department, 2018. https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about/reports-publications/research-statistics/statistics/live-in-australia/migration-programme[/note]

This begs the question, why did the previous Government not take notice of the downward trends in the economy and modify WA’s Skilled Migration Occupation List accordingly? In 2011 the State Coalition developed a West Australian Skilled Migration Strategy in partnership with The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI). [note]Western Australia, Department of Training and Workforce Development. Western Australian skilled migration strategy, 2011. http://www.fapstc.org.au/Downloads/Workforce%20Development/Skilled%20Migration%20Strategy.2011.pdf[/note] The latter where extremely bullish about the State’s economy announcing there could be a shortfall of more than 210,000 workers by 2020. The Government where clearly impressed by the CCI forecasts. Their Strategy concluded that Western Australia may experience a Labour deficit of up to 170,000 workers by 2017. In January 2017 Western Australia had reached its highest unemployment rate in 17 years (7.9%). [note]Australian Bureau of Statistics. Labour force Australia, (cat.no. 6202.0). Canberra: ABS, February 2018. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6202.0[/note]

Figure 1 below demonstrates Western Australia has made considerable use of State nominated visas. The  Snapshot highlights the provision of visas in Western Australia multiplied from 1,790 in 2004-05 to 8,310 in 2010-11. In 2004-05 the State Government delivered 10% of the total Australian SSRM Programme. By 2010-11 this figure had risen to 22%. The overall number of nominations for 2016-17, did decline from 2010-11. However it still made up 16% of the total SSRM Programme. [note] Australia. Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Permanent additions to Australia’s population, 2016-17. Canberra: The Department, 2018. https://data.gov.au/dataset/permanent-additions-to-australia-s-resident-population/resource/52ed0c6c-59c1-4fe5-b158-66a94d1b1f4f[/note]

Note. Adapted from the Department of Home Affairs Annual Reports.[note]Australian Government. Department of Home Affairs. Annual reports, 2018. Canberra: The Department, 2018. https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about/reports-publications/reports/annual [/note]

West Australia Turns to Highly Specialised Professions.

Table 2 below reveals the 18 occupations on the West Australia Skilled Migration Occupation List are mainly targeted at specialised, highly skilled occupations in the Health sector. The previous list of 178, contained Building trade workers such as Bricklayers. Despite the fact that West Australia’s Housing Industry Forecast Group projected a 26% drop in dwelling commencements from 2014-15 through to 2015-16. The forecast was not that far off the mark, West Australia dwelling commencements did drop by 22%. [note] Western Australia. Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage. Housing Industry Forecast Group: Forecast dwelling commencements in West Australia, April 2016 Update.Perth: The Department, 2016. https://www.planning.wa.gov.au/716.aspx[/note]

The previous WASMOL also contained engineers. Which was surprising as the Commonwealth’s Department of Employment (DOE) conducts labour market research and found no shortages for many Engineering professions in WA. The research revealed demand for Engineering Professionals in West Australia was flat and its lowest levels in 10 years. Due to subdued activity in the resource and manufacturing sectors and reduced levels of expenditure on infrastructure. [note] Australia. Department of Employment. Labour market research -Engineering professions Western Australia, April Quarter 2017. Perth: The Department,2017.https://docs.jobs.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/engineeringprofessionswa_0.pdf[/note] The DOE was dissolved in December 2017 and its functions assumed by the new Department of Jobs and Small Business (DJSB). As of January 2018, The DJSB have put all the Engineering professions (total 17) on the Medium and Long-Term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) for State and Territory Nominations and invitations through Skilled Regional. In total there are 180 occupations on the MLTSSL.[note]Australian Federal Register of  Legislation. Migration (IMMI 18/007: Specification of Occupations and Assessing Authorities) Instrument 2018. Updated 15 January, 2018. https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2018L00046/Controls/#[/note]

It is difficult to predict how the Commonwealth Government’s  MLTSSL will interact with the State Government’s Labour Market Methodology used to determine WASMOL and the State Priority Occupation List (SPOL). There are some concerns with the new MLTSSL methodology. For example, Engineers Australia has noted that a connection between the annual skilled migration intake and MLTSSL needs to be established – in order to avoid unintended skews in the migration intake.[note]Engineers Australia. Migration Occupations List Methodology, 2017. https://www.engineersaustralia.org.au/sites/default/files/resources/Public%20Affairs/Migration%20Occupations%20List%20Methodology%20(Cth%2C%20October%202017).pdf[/note] There are reservations from The Australian Population Research Institute (TAPRI). There research indicates that the MLTSSL involves stockpiling skilled  migrants in spite of the fact there professions are not in short supply.[note] The Australian Population Research Institute. The Coalition’s Visa Reset: Tougher Than You Think. http://tapri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/immigration-reset-7-August-2017-final.pdf[/note]

Table 2: Western Australian skilled migration occupation list 2017/18

ANZSCO​​ code*​​​​​ ​Skilled​ ​o​ccu​pation Eligi​ble visas  ​ ​ Eligible visas ​Assessing authority Status
​190 visa ​489 visa
​251214 Sonographer​​ yes yes ASMIRT​ Available
​251412 ​Orthoptist yes yes VETASSESS Available
​252711 ​Audiologist yes VETASSESS Available
​ 253111 ​General Practitioner yes Medical Board of Australia Available
253316 ​Gastroenterologist yes yes Medical Board of Australia ​​ Available
253323 ​Rheumatologist​ yes yes Medical Board of Australia ​Available
253411 Psychiatrist yes yes Medical Board of Australia Available​
253513 Neurosurgeon yes yes Medical Board of Australia​ Available
253515 Otorhinolaryngologist yes yes Medical Board of Australia​ Available
253521 Vascular Surgeon yes yes Medical Board of Australia Available
253913 ​ Obstetrician and Gynaecologist yes yes Medical Board of Australia Available
2539​18 Radiation Oncologist yes yes Medical Board of Australia Available
254111 ​Midwife yes ANMAC ​ Available
254413 ​Registered Nurse (Child and Family Health) ANMAC ​Available
254414 ​Registered Nurse (Community Health) yes ANMAC Available ​
254415 ​Registered Nurse (Critical Care and Emergency) yes ANMAC ​Available
254422 ​Registered Nurse (Mental Heal ​ th) yes ANMAC ​ Available
254423 ​Registered Nurse (Perioperative) yes ANMAC ​ Available

Note. Retrieved from Skilled Migration Western Australia.[note] Western Australia Skilled Migration. Western Australian skilled migration occupation list. Perth: Skilled Migration 2017. http://www.migration.wa.gov.au/services/skilled-migration-western-australia/occupations-in-demand[/note]

There is no doubt the Western Australian Government has made a practical policy move to Skilled Migration. Western Australia is the only jurisdiction that has modified its Migration Occupation List. All other State’s and Territories have persisted with a large number of occupations on their migration lists. Queensland’s unemployment rate is similar to West Australia’s and there major LNG construction projects are completed but they have retained 169 nominated occupations including many trades. [note]Queensland. Business & Skilled Migration Queensland. Queensland Skilled Occupations Lists, 2018. https://migration.qld.gov.au/skilled-occupation-lists/[/note]

Commendations go to The State Government for this bold Migration Policy intervention. The State have clearly put West Australia first when considering  the previous list of 178 contained a range of occupations and Trades. Many of these jobs could be done by local training and apprenticeships and the growing number of the State’s unemployed looking for full time work (See Figure 4 below). The State Government has opened the door for uniquely highly skilled professionals to work in the State and gain permanent residency. Which ironically was how the Commonwealth Government used to run the Nation’s Migration Programme, before the flood of Temporary visas came along. The State Government’s website clearly lays out its Policy intentions: “ From March 2017 the WASMOL has been simplified into one list targeting those occupations which are of a specialist nature and have compelling evidence of unmet demand at State level”. [note] Western Australia Skilled Migration. Western Australian skilled migration occupation list. Perth: Skilled Migration, 2017. http://www.migration.wa.gov.au/services/skilled-migration-western-australia/occupations-in-demand[/note]

The Growth Of State Specific Regional Migration

State Specific Regional Migration initiatives where introduced by the Australian Government in 1996-97. [note] Australian Government. Department of Home Affairs. Annual reports. Canberra: The Department, 2018 https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about/reports-publications/reports/annual [/note] The aim was to offer a range of avenues that employers and State and Territory Governments could use to fill skill shortages. [note]Ibid[/note] The growth of SSRM visas has mushroomed since introduction when less than 1,000 visa grants where issued, to a total number of 511,667 visas granted by June 30, 2017. Demonstrating the crucial role Australian State and Territory governments and regional employers partake in influencing migration outcomes

The SSRM scheme applies two distinct visa categories. The visas listed in Table 1 above are provided through the General Skilled Stream Category, of which the State and Territory nominations is the major provider. The other category is the Employer Sponsored Category, which hosts the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS). This applies to regional businesses and enables them to nominate temporary residents in Australia or applicants from overseas to fill skilled vacancies for up to 2 years. After 2 years they are eligible for a Permanent visa. [note] Australia. Department of Home Affairs. Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa (subclass 187). Canberra: The Department, 2018. https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/visa-1/187-[/note] The SSRM scheme is incorporated into Australia’s Annual Permanent Migration Programme and these visas are capped.

State and Territory Nominated visa is a direct path to permanent residency enabling  the holder to sponsor eligible relatives for permanent residency. For the financial year 2016-17 applications for State/Territory visa’s stood at 27,252, growing by 10% on the previous year figure of 24,871. [note] Australia. Department of Home Affairs. Migration Programme Statistics. Canberra: The Department, 2018. https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about/reports-publications/research-statistics/statistics/live-in-australia/migration-programme[/note] Figure 2 reveals how much the Australian SSRM Programme has grown. From 2004-2013 (visa grants rocketed by 178%) reaching a peak of nearly 52,000. At this crest the SSRM represented 40% of Australia’s Total Permanent Skill Stream. This has reduced since, but as of 2016-17, nearly one third of all permanent visas still come through SSRM. [note]Ibid[/note]

Note. Adapted from the Department of Home Affairs Migration programme  statistics. [note]Australia. Department of Home Affairs. Migration Programme Statistics. Canberra: The Department, 2018.  https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about/reports-publications/research-statistics/statistics/live-in-australia/migration-programme[/note]

The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme: Very Appealing for Foreign Students?

The Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) has proved very popular in Western Australia. The inclusion of Perth in the RSMS in 2011-12 (by Federal Labor) appeared to have motivated thousands more migrants to apply for the visa resulting in a 75% increase in visas granted in 2012-13 (see Figure 3 below). [note] Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Skilled Foreign Workers to Fill Labor Gap. Perth, Western Australia, 2011. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-07-19/bowen-skilled-workers-wa/2799886 [/note] Federal Labor also declared the the RSMS would make it easier for employers to sponsor semi-skilled migrants. [note]Ibid[/note] By the end of 2013 Western Australia made up one third (33%) of all RSMS outcomes (Figure 3). This amounted to a high of nearly 7,000 visas granted. The inclusion of Perth in the RSMS was an unexpected decision by the Immigration Minister.  The RSMS is specifically designed to assist regional employers nominate skilled migrants. Only when there is a genuine need for a migrant in regional Australia”. [note]Australia. Department of Home Affairs. Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa (subclass 187). Canberra: The Department, 2018.   https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/visa-1/187-[/note]

Figure 3 displays RSMS visas granted in Western Australia, 2011-12 through to 2016-17. During this stretch Western Australia was the main choice of intended residence for all RSMS visa places in Australia. This rise in RSMS outcomes in West Australia reached a substantial 40% of the total for Australia in 2014-15. The RSMS provides one of the most attractive visa options for permanent residency. The primary applicant plus all family have immediate access to Government benefits the visa is not points tested for skills sets. English language thresholds are lower than the requirements for other Permanent visa types. [note] Australia. Department of Home Affairs. Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa (subclass 187). Canberra: The Department, 2018.  https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/visa-1/187-[/note] Figure 3 unveils a large number of outcomes have gone to foreign students based in Australia. Foreign students are able to apply for jobs approved by the State Government for a permanent stay RSMS visa. [note] The Australian Population Research Institute. The Coalition’s Visa Reset: Tougher Than You Think. http://tapri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/immigration-reset-7-August-2017-final.pdf[/note]

Notes. Adapted from the Department of Home Affairs Migration programme  statistics. [note] Australia. Department of Home Affairs. Migration Programme Statistics. Canberra: The Department, 2018.   https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about/reports-publications/research-statistics/statistics/live-in-australia/migration-programme[/note] Data was unavailable for RSMS WA figures in 2015-16 and RSMS foreign students 2016-17.

In 2017 the Commonwealth Government outlined a range of policy reforms to the Australian visa system these are due to be rolled out in March 2018. The Australian Population and Research Institute conducted an analysis of the possible outcomes of the reforms. There study suggests that under the new policy. The RSMS visa will become more selective. [note] The Coalition’s Visa Reset: Tougher Than You Think. http://tapri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/immigration-reset-7-August-2017-final.pdf[/note] The main difference applies to work experience. From March 2018 all RSMS applicants must prove at least 3 years relevant work experience in the position applied for. Up until March 2018, overseas students could apply for RSMS visas with no requirement to provide proof of relevant work experience. [note]Ibid[/note]

A policy reform of this extent does suggest the Scheme has issues related to skill sets, English proficiency and work experience. It remains to be seen if the Commonwealth reforms and State Government’s action to remove Metropolitan Perth from the RSMS scheme (started November 2017) will make much difference to the number of visas granted. High demand still exists for this permanent residency visa and they are permitted for use in the Rest of Western Australia.

West Australia Unemployment and Immigration Update: The Upward Path Keeps on Going

In my First Post I reviewed three important variables of the Western Australian economy: youth unemployment, total unemployment and migration arrivals. I pointed out that the research did not propose any direct link between the continuation of Australia’s high immigration programme and unemployment outcomes in Western Australia.  However, the high number of NOM arrivals remains constant 53,000 in 2016-17 and the majority come with working rights. Figure 4 shows the updated total unemployment and youth unemployment on an upward trend over the past decade, on a similar growth path to NOM arrivals over the same period.

Note. Adapted from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. [note]Australian Bureau of Statistics. Labour force Australia, (cat.no. 6202.0). Canberra: ABS,February2018.http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6202.0; Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Demographic Statistics, (cat.no.3101.0). Canberra: ABS, December 2017. http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/3101.0Jun%202017?OpenDocument [/note]

Featured in Figure 4 is the average number of unemployed persons looking for work amounting to 63,000 for 2016-17. This is a different use of the unemployment variable in my last article, which had the highest point of unemployment for a one-month period over one year. That was to reveal the unpredictability of current unemployment figures. For instance, over a 12-month time frame, there is considerable movement in upper and lower unemployment levels. In January 2017 there where 75,300 West Australian’s unemployed looking for full time work (rate 7.9%). In the space of 5 months by May 2017 this had dropped to 49,800 (rate 5.2%). Then by December 2017 it was back up to 55,700 (rate 5.7%). [note]Ibid[/note] Suggesting that at any given period there is an untapped source of West Australian skills looking for work.

Figure 4 highlights the large number of NOM worker arrivals (82,870 in 2011-12) representing a 28% annual increase on the previous year. Over a 2 year period from 2011-12 to 2012 -13 a population spike occurred with Western Australia taken in 165,830 new migrants. This also coincided with a 17% climb in total unemployment. During this time the Federal Labor Government added the whole of Perth’s Metropolitan Region to the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS). And they also introduced the first Enterprise Migration Agreement in Australia. Granting Federal approval for the Roy Hill Pilbara Region Project to hire its workforce direct from overseas. [note] Australia. Department of Library Services. Skilled migration: temporary and permanent flows to Australia  Canberra: The Department, 2012. https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/2012-2013/SkilledMigration#_Toc342559470[/note]

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