POST 3 THE McGOWAN GOVERNMENT CREATES 210 OCCUPATIONS FOR OVERSEAS STUDENTS.

Executive Summary.

In March 2017 newly elected labor Premier Mark McGowan implemented a reduced West Australian Skilled Migration Overseas List (WASMOL) and terminated the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) in Metropolitan Perth. The aim was to look after the State’s growing unemployment and get them back into the workforce. Here is Mr McGowan after being sworn in as Premier: “Our economy has changed dramatically since the height of the mining boom and we need to do everything we can to get Western Australians back to work.[1]

It is nearly two years since the Premier made those comments. Has the State Labor Premier delivered on his commitment to unemployed West Australian’s? Has the government kept its tight rein on State Specific Regional Migration (SSRM)? This research Post set out to examine these questions. It found the State Premier has not delivered on his promise to get West Australian’s unemployed back to work. In fact the situation has got worse for West Australian’s youth (age group 15-24). Furthermore, the RSMS program has been placed in the high-risk visa category, which means the applications have been inundated by misleading claims. Yet the McGowan government continue to support the use of RSMS permanent visas in Regional WA.

In October 2018, the State labor Government decided to implement a Graduate Occupation List (GOL). Attempting to attract overseas students and their families to live, study and work in Western Australia. On offer are 210 occupations for State nominated visas leading to permanent residency. This represents a significant change in the Labor government’s migration policy. The intentions of the Governments’ migration policy is explained on there State Migration website: “State nomination visa applicants will have to compete with all potential employees in the Western Australian labour market to secure any available or advertised position.[2]

The criteria for the State nominations are students must have practical work experience in West Australia after their initial studies. One of the keys to this is by obtaining a Temporary Graduate 485 visa.[3] The 485 visa has no restrictions to work or study in any field, regardless of their study and qualifications.[4] In addition, dependents and secondary applicants are able to work and study on the Temporary Graduate visa. The 485 visa is undergoing high growth.

Key Findings.

  1. The Temporary Graduate 485 visa increased from 2016-17 to 2017-18 by 27.1% to a total of 54,863 visa holders. The main nationalities of 485 visas for 2017-18 are (India 27.3%, China, 22.7%, Nepal 9.6% and Pakistan 5.5%). Indian nationals increased their proportion of 485 visa grants by a substantial 44.4% from (2016-17 to 2017-18).
  2. Overseas students are a substantial component of West Australia’s Net Overseas Migration (NOM). In 2016 they comprised 54.35% of NOM dropping to 40.89% in 2017.
  3. The West Australia economic boom is over but that has not deterred migrants moving to the State. From 2012-13 to 2017-18 (333,382 NOM arrivals settled in West Australia).
  4. The Federal government have placed the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme in the high-risk visa category. The RSMS has been highly impacted by integrity issues. The State Labor government continue to support the RSMS for Regional West Australia. Even though The Federal government have categorised the program as high risk and visa applications being lodged by applicants with complex immigration histories. Western Australia was the intended destination by the majority (31.5%) of persons granted granted RSMS visas in 2017-18.
  5. Over a 5-year span 2012-13 to 2016-17 a considerable 35.65% of all RSMS visas granted in Australia where in Western Australia (25,606 in total). This is high considering WA constitutes 10.8% of Australia’s total population.

Recommendation:

The State labor government should consider terminating the RSMS program in Regional WA. It has terminated the use of RSMS permanent visas in Greater Perth. It is problematic to continue to operate the RSMS prgram in the WA regions when the visa application process has been under pressure from a growing number of misleading claims.

Instead of operating the RSMS program in Regional WA, the Labor government could increase the use of  Skilled Nominated visas (subclass 190) in Regional areas.  This is a higher skill competency visa compared to the RSMS. It is part of the points tested stream (whereas the RSMS is not) and applicants are required to score 65 points or more.

Is another population growth spike on the way?

The 2017 State election highlighted a clear difference in State migration policy between the Labor Party and Liberal Party. The incoming Premier Mark McGowan pulled back the brakes on a decade of immigration driven population growth. Half a million people where added to Western Australia’s population in a period of ten years (2006-2016) under the watch of the Liberal Coalition, see Post 1. This from Mr McGowan in March 2017 “Our policy will ensure that, whenever possible, Western Australians will be given first preference on WA jobs. It doesn’t make sense to fast-track workers from overseas when there are unemployed Western Australians who are capable of doing the work”.[5]

Premier McGowan making a statement on State migration in late 2018: “We need to send a message to the world that we welcome international students, and their friends and families. Perth is an attractive, supportive destination to live, study and work”.[6] What has motivated the Labor government to change there migration policy? Why expand State migration by adding 210 occupations for overseas students to compete with the local workforce for job opportunities?

Recently the West Australian public where given an idea what the State government intend to pursue with there migration intake. It looks like more immigration driven population growth is on the way. This from a press release in December 2018: Mr McGowan will provide the Federal Government with the State Government’s plans to grow Perth’s population to 3.5 million and build Metronet, and insist that any further population increase must come with extra Federal funding.[7]

The State Labor government aim to attract more migrants to study and work in Western Australia.

In late 2018 the Labor government decided to expand the overseas migration list. Increasing from 18 specialist medical professions on the WASMOL to an additional 210 positions eligible for State nominations on the Graduate Occupation List (GOL).[8] What does the implementation of the GOL mean for Western Australia? Will this lead to a significant rise in student arrivals ? There is no cap on the number of overseas students that can come to live, work and study in Australia. Therefore, it is difficult to make predictions. Overseas students bring family members and they also have working rights.

Student visas:

  • Student (subclass 500 visa) can apply to have partners and dependant children under the age of eighteen accompany them to Australia. These family members are known as secondary visa holders. A parent or guardian seeking to accompany an international student to Australia may be eligible for a Student Guardian visa.
  • A Student visa allows most students to work for up to 40 hours per fortnight while their course is in session and for unlimited hours during course breaks. Secondary visa holders are able to work 40 hours per fortnight at any time.
  • There are no restrictions on the type of work a Temporary Graduate (subclass 485) visa holder can do. This visa has two streams: Graduate Work Stream – applicants in this stream must have completed a trade qualification, diploma or degree and the Post Study Work Stream – for international students who have recently graduated with an Australian Bachelor degree, Masters degree or Doctorate. These visa holders may work or study in any field, regardless of their study and qualifications. Dependents and secondary applicants are able to work and study on the Temporary Graduate visa.[9]

The Temporary Graduate 485 visa is going through a high growth phase. There were (54,863 visas lodged) in 2017-18. This is an increase of 27.1 per cent compared to the previous year (see Table 1 below). Indian nationals increased their proportion of 485 visa grants by 44.4% ( see Table 1 below). What is perhaps of concern to Australian education providers are reports that Indian students could be entering Australian universities with inadequate English skills. Therefore, may encounter problems completing there course of studies. For example, academics at Murdoch University recently raised concerns about a big rise in students from India struggling to cope with their studies because of poor English skills.[10]

Table 1: Number of subclass 485 student visa applications granted by citizenship country-comparison with same period in previous year.

Citizenship Country2016-172017-18% Change from 2016-172017-18 as % of Total
India10,36614,96744.40%27.30%
China, Peoples Republic of (excl SARs)11,25612,46610.70%22.70%
Nepal3,8515,25636.50%9.60%
Pakistan2,4113,00724.70%5.50%
Vietnam1,6262,05626.40%3.70%
Philippines1,5191,72613.60%3.10%
Malaysia1,3651,62419.00%3.00%
Sri Lanka1,0661,39130.50%2.50%
Korea, South9761,20423.40%2.20%
Indonesia9411,17124.40%2.10%
Bangladesh8191,01724.20%1.90%
Hong Kong (SAR of the PRC)58571422.10%1.30%
Singapore42752623.20%1.00%
Taiwan39250328.30%0.90%
Colombia38048828.40%0.90%
Other countries5,1776,74730.30%12.30%
Total43,15754,86327.10%100.00%

Source: Retrieved from Department of Home Affairs.[11]

The Student (subclass 500) enables students from all over the world to study and work in Australia. It has been on a rapid growth phase for several years as is demonstrated in Figure 4 (see next section below). Table 2 below shows a significant increase (23.40%) in students moving from a student visa to the 485 Temporary Graduate visa to gain post study work experience. The Table also demonstrates the majority of foreign students reapply for another student visa en masse (for example, 73,797 in 2017-18). This allows a foreign student to live and work in Australia for an additional 5 years.

In 2015, the Australian Government Department of Education and Training commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to assess the value of international education to Australia. The report states: “A primary driver of student demand for Australian international education, particularly education onshore, is the prospect of post study work opportunities and the potential of permanent migration to Australia”.[12]

With the McGowan government generating 210 occupations for overseas students to apply for after they have graduated. Will this provide the stimulus to usher in a significant increase in student arrivals? Especially as State nominated permanent visas are on offer. Bear in mind overseas students are currently  a large component of West Australia’s NOM (see discussion below).  This Research will monitor the outcomes of the State labor permanent visa offer for overseas students.

Table 2: Number of visas granted in 2017-18 by visa category where the last visa held was a student visa

Visa category2016-172017-18% change from 2016-172017-18 as % total
500 Student80,81373,797-8.70%38%
485 Temporary Graduate37,83946,71123.40%24%
600 Visitor19,41822,18514.20%12%
601 Electronic Travel Authority17,19017,6832.90%9%
457 Temporary Work (Skilled)10,7056,098-43.00%3%
820 Partner7,5525,539-26.70%3%
651 eVisitor3,9354,44212.90%2%
189 Skilled – Independent5,1553,469-32.70%2%
190 Skilled – Nominated2,6352,7203.20%1%
417 Working Holiday2,1682,069-4.60%1%
462 Work and Holiday6751,01249.90%1%
187 Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme2,087927-55.60%1%
489 Skilled – Regional (Provisional)64582628.10%0%
801 Partner 655 0%
866 Protection880600-31.80%0%
Other visa subclasses7,7554,172-46.20%2%
Total199,452192,905-3.30%100%

Source: Retrieved from Department of Home Affairs.[13]

Western Australian unemployment trends are a major concern.

In 2008-09 there was a striking shift in Western Australia’s unemployment trends (see Figure 1 below). This occurred during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). A period of extreme stress in global financial markets and banking systems between mid 2007 and early 2009. The GFC had an impact on all advanced economies. Australia did not experience a large economic downturn or a financial crisis during the GFC. However, the pace of economic growth did slow significantly, the unemployment rate rose sharply and there was a period of heightened uncertainty. The relatively strong performance of the Australian economy and financial system during the GFC, compared with other countries, reflected a range of factors. One of these was Australia’s economy was buoyed by large resource exports to China, whose economy rebounded quickly after the initial GFC shock.[14]

Nonetheless, West Australia did see a significant rise in youth unemployment during the GFC (see Figure 1 below). In 2009 unemployment increased by 62.49% in Regional WA and 61.62% in Greater Perth. It does appear that youth unemployment has not recovered from 2009 and the upward trend continues to gain momentum.

Figure 1: Average annual unemployment Western Australia 1999 to Nov 2018 (age group 15-24)

Source: Adapted from Australian Bureau of Statistics.[15] (Note: the ABS data for 2018 is not annual it is for the 11 month period up to the end of November 2018- data for all the other Years’ is annual 12 month average)

Western Australia’s total unemployment is shown in Figure 2 below unveiling the rapid surge upwards in annual average unemployment during the Global Financial Crisis. Rising from (36,561 in 2008) to (61,284 in 2009) an immense increase in unemployment in Western Australia of (67.62%). Unfortunately the upward movement in unemployment has continued since unabated and by November 30, 2018 there was a rise in unemployment rate to 6.5% with a total of 87,600 West Australians looking for work.

Figure 2: Average annual unemployment all age groups Western Australia 1999 to Nov 2018.

Source: Adapted from Australian Bureau of Statistics.[16]

(Note: the ABS data for 2018 is not annual it is for the 11 month period up to the end of November 2018- data for all the other Years’ is annual 12 month average)

The non-stop rise of International students to Australia.

Throughout the duration of the GFC there was significant growth in overseas student grants in Western Australia. From 2006-07- 2008-09 grants increased by 43.40% reaching a high of 25,773 visa grants by 2009 (Figure 3 below). Why student visas reached these numbers is partly due to Federal immigration policies implemented by a John Howard led Coalition in 2005 and by a Kevin Rudd Labor government in 2008.

Figure 3: Student visas granted Western Australia 2005-06 to 2017-18

[visualizer id=”2329″]

Source: Adapted from Department of Home Affairs.[17]

In 2005 the Howard government recognised an increase in student visa approvals and falling non-compliance levels among overseas students. Resulting in the Government lowering student visa assessment levels, including, English requirements and financial tests for student visa applicants from certain countries and education sectors.[18] During this period the Government also increased the number of trades listed on the Migration Occupation Demand List, including cooking and hospitality. This change was instrumental in accelerating the growth of the Vocational Education Sector and in the number of overseas students enrolling in courses.[19] Figure 4 below reveals the increase in overseas student grants in Australia climbing from (191, 347 in 2005-06) to a record level of (378, 292 in 2017-18). The number of overseas student visas has nearly doubled in 13 years, rising by (97.7%).

In 2008 the Rudd government granted overseas students the automatic right to work up to 20 hours a week while their course was in session. Previously, overseas students were required to make a separate application for the right to work .[20] By assigning overseas students with automatic working rights (many from lower income countries than Australia). This had the effect of transforming demand for overseas student visas to a much higher level. The rise of overseas students to Australia has made a considerable impact on the country’s NOM. In 2017 overseas students comprised 42.84% of Australia’s NOM.  In Western Australia 2016, overseas students made up over half of the State’s NOM (54.35%).[21]

 Figure 4: All student visas granted to study in Australia 2005-06 to 2017-18

[visualizer id=”2331″]

Source: Adapted from Department of Home Affairs.[22]

Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme – A high risk visa.

There are issues with the Federal governments’ migrant application process. This is an extract from the 2017-18 Migration Program Report: “There is now a higher proportion of high-risk cases across our programs, with applications lodged by individuals with complex immigration histories, including extensive travel histories, unsuccessful visa applications and/or periods of being unlawful in Australia. These require increased scrutiny, including more character and bona fides checks to ensure that the Australian community is protected”. The 2017-18 Australian Migration program resulted in the number of visa refusals and withdrawals increasing by a significant 46.2 per cent.[23]

The RSMS program is coming under increased scrutiny . The Migration Program Report states: “The RSMS outcome in 2017–18 was 6221 places, a 39.0 per cent decrease on the 2016–17 outcome of 10,198 places, this visa program is particularly impacted by integrity issues”.[24] There are 465 eligible occupations which to obtain an RSMS permanent visa.[25] In 2018 the Federal government implemented stricter rules for RSMS compliance. The main one was that RSMS applicants now require at least 3 years relevant work experience in their occupation. Previous to this there was no requirement for work experience in their occupation. It is remarkable that Federal immigration policy allowed RSMS applicants to access Regional occupations without the suitable skills, experience and qualifications.

There is an alternative. Instead of the RSMS visas applying to Regional WA, replace these with Skilled Nominated visas (subclass 190). A government, industry and union assessment can be conducted to evaluate if demand exists for skilled professions in Regional WA. The subclass 190 visa forms part of the points tested stream (whereas the RSMS is not) and applicants are required to score 65 points or more. Why the State Labor government has decided to keep the RSMS running only they can answer. Given the Federal government has confirmed many RSMS visa applications are misleading. The WA government should consider terminating the program in Regional WA. In 2017 the State government cancelled the RSMS program in Greater Perth.

The majority of persons granted RSMS visas in 2017-18 indicated they would reside in Western Australia (31.5 per cent); second was Queensland (20.1 per cent); and third come Victoria (11.2 per cent). The demand for RSMS continues to surge. At June 2018, the RSMS pipeline comprised (22,661 applicants) representing an increase of (21.2 per cent or 3965 applicants) compared to 30 June 2017.[26] Figure 5 below illustrates the popularity of RSMS visas in Western Australia – over a 5-year span a significant 35.65% of all RSMS visas granted in Australia where in Western Australia (25,606 in total). This is high when considering WA constitutes  10.8% of Australia’s population.[27] Figure 5 reveals that most of the RSMS visas (78.11%) have been granted to applicants residing in Western Australia.

Figure 5: Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visas granted, Western Australia 2012-13 to 2016-17

[visualizer id=”2325″]

Source: Adapted from Department of Home Affairs.[28]

Is it time to reassess Australia’s large scale immigration program?

The ongoing reforms to the Australian migration program (in favour of a high immigration intake) is beginning to cause angst with the Australian public. In June 2018, The Lowy Institute revealed 54% of Australians say that ‘the total number of migrants coming to Australia is too high’. This represented a significant rise in opposition to the existing migration rate. It was up 14 points from 2017. This is the first time annual Lowy Polls discovered Australians expressing unease about the current immigration rates. What is revealing was the national identity element to the polling. A significant (41%) says, “if Australia is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation”.[29]

The Federal and State governments may to need apply a more cautious approach to migration policy. Especially as the immigration system is now predominantly driven by Temporary visa applications, which are uncapped. Making it difficult for State government to predict the number of future migrant arrivals. The recent migration reform in Western Australia (increasing occupation eligibility by over 200 professions) is clearly designed to persuade more overseas students and there families to live, work and study in Perth. And to apply for State nominated permanent visas. The average number of student visas granted in WA from 2005-06 to 2017-18, was 21,396 visas.[30]The number of overseas migrants that arrived in West Australia over the past 6 years was (333,382, see Table 3 below) the majority of these where Temporary work visas.

Table 3: Net Overseas Migration arrivals, Western Australia 2012-13 to 2017-18.

[table id=19 /]

Source: Retrieved from Australian Bureau of Statistics.[31]

References.

[1] Dylan Caporn, ‘WA Slashes Jobs on Skilled Migration List’, The West Australian, 2017 <https://thewest.com.au/politics/state-politics/wa-state-government-slashes-jobs-on-skilled-migration-list-ng-b88513511z> [accessed 2 January 2019].

[2] Migration Western Australia, ‘Migration WA – Occupation Lists’, 2018 <https://www.migration.wa.gov.au/services/skilled-migration-western-australia/occupation%20lists> [accessed 23 December 2018].

[3] Department of Home Affairs, Student Visa and Temporary Graduate Visa Program Report – Ending at 30 June 2018, 2018 <https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/student-temporary-grad-program-report-jun-2018.pdf>.

[4] Department of Home Affairs, Student Visa and Temporary Graduate Visa Program Report – Ending at 30 June 2018.

[5] Dylan Caporn.

[6] Government of Western Australia, ‘Media Statements – WA to Attract Best and Brightest International Students’, 2018 <https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/McGowan/2018/08/WA-to-attract-best-and-brightest-international-students.aspx> [accessed 23 December 2018].

[7] Phoebe Wearne, ‘Premier Puts His Price on WA Taking More Migrants’, The West Australian, 2018 <https://thewest.com.au/politics/immigration-policy/premier-mark-mcgowan-puts-his-price-on-wa-taking-more-migrants-ng-b881046956z> [accessed 13 January 2019].

[8] Migration Western Australia.

[9] Department of Home Affairs, Student Visa and Temporary Graduate Visa Program Report – Ending at 30 June 2018.

[10] Bethany Hiatt, ‘Indian Students Bypass English Test’, The West Australian, 2018 <https://thewest.com.au/news/education/indian-students-bypass-english-test-ng-b88988709z> [accessed 29 December 2018].

[11] Department of Home Affairs, Student Visa and Temporary Graduate Visa Program Report – Ending at 30 June 2018.

[12] Australian Government Department of Education and Training, ‘Research Papers and Reports’ <https://internationaleducation.gov.au/research/research-papers/pages/research%20papers.aspx> [accessed 26 January 2019].

[13] Department of Home Affairs, Student Visa and Temporary Graduate Visa Program Report – Ending at 30 June 2018.

[14] Reserve Bank of Australia, ‘The Global Financial Crisis | Explainer | Education’, 2019 <https://www.rba.gov.au/education/resources/explainers/the-global-financial-crisis.html> [accessed 2 March 2019].

[15] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘6291.0.55.003 – Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, Nov 2018’, 2018 <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6291.0.55.003?OpenDocument&gt; [accessed 23 December 2018].

[16] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘6291.0.55.003 – Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, Nov 2018’.

[17] Department of Home Affairs, ‘Study Visa Statistics’, 2018 <https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-statistics/statistics/visa-statistics/study&gt; [accessed 30 December 2018].

[18] Elsa Koleth, ‘Overseas Students: Immigration Policy Changes 1997–May 2010’ <https://doi.org/https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/0910/OverseasStudents?_id=5D6C3E7614B749AC886F31988808C399>.

[19] Elsa Koleth.

[20] Elsa Koleth.

[21] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, Jun 2018’, 2018 <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3101.0> [accessed 4 January 2019].

[22] Department of Home Affairs, ‘Study Visa Statistics’.

[23] Department of Home Affairs, ‘2017-18 Migration Program Report’, 2018 <https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/report-migration-program-2017-18.pdf>.

[24] Department of Home Affairs, ‘2017-18 Migration Program Report’.

[25] Department of Home Affairs, ‘Migration (IMMI 18/043: Specification of Occupations—Subclass 187 Visa) Instrument 2018’, 2018 <https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2018L00295> [accessed 6 December 2018].

[26] Department of Home Affairs, ‘2017-18 Migration Program Report’.

[27] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, Jun 2018’.

[28] Department of Home Affairs, ‘Permanent Additions to Australia’s Resident Population’, 2018 <https://data.gov.au/dataset/permanent-additions-to-australia-s-resident-population> [accessed 30 December 2018].

[29] Alex Oliver, ‘2018 Lowy Institute Poll’, 2018 <https://www.lowyinstitute.org/publications/2018-lowy-institute-poll> [accessed 17 January 2019].

[30] Department of Home Affairs, ‘Study Visa Statistics’.

[31] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, Jun 2018’.

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