Why has the McGowan government maintained the foreign student occupation list with 136 WA positions up for grabs?
In 2019-20 the State government invited over 3,200 foreign graduates to fill occupations in WA. At the same time, West Australian’s were losing jobs or been laid off due to the coronavirus.
Many of the occupations range from engineers to welfare workers. West Australia’s youth unemployed (30,000 plus) could fill these roles or be trained up for them. The McGowan government’s record on youth unemployment is abysmal, they have ushered in the highest rates in more than 20 years, currently above 14% (see Chart 1 below).
(Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020.)
Foreign students are given automatic work rights by the Federal government on entry into Australia. The State government should be focused on the local workforce as opposed to providing a range of occupations to foreign graduates.
It’s time to refine West Australia’s State Migration
The closure of international borders has led to overseas arrivals declining by over 95%. However, nearly 20,000 foreign students commenced study in WA too September 2020.
The WA interstate borders have opened. There are 1.9 million temporary visas in Australia ready to move to States with big occupation lists. Curtailing State migration at times of high unemployment is critical. This is a key measure of the WAP’S employ local workers first policy.
The West Australia Party proposes a modernisation of State migration. It will include a list solely of General independent high skilled occupations in the immediate short-term demand category. We also propose breaking the nexus between foreign student visas and the State visa nomination list.
Other reforms are necessary. The Federal government’s medium and long-term occupation demand policy is flawed. They come with a 5 and 10-year time frame. This lends itself to stockpiling foreign workers were no immediate demand exists. The WAP will move that all State visa invitations be in the short-term demand category.
International education is not the problem
There are no issues with foreign students attending WA universities and striving to complete their studies in high quality universities. But the WA government and universities should not be acting as de-facto employment agencies for foreign graduates.
In 2019 the Labor government provided $6.5 million of taxpayer’s funds to StudyPerth, a migration lobby group. Their role is to market Perth’s international education sector and visa occupations to foreign students. WA universities are strongly supportive of maintaining the graduate occupation list. Foreign students are a significant source of universities revenue.
The McGowan Government are well aware that foreign students have an adverse effect on metropolitan labour markets. Are they paying any notice? According to the State migration agency the McGowan government plan to progress graduate visa invitations when the borders open.
 Government of West Australia, ‘Migration WA – Occupation Lists’, 2020 <https://migration.wa.gov.au/services/skilled-migration-western-australia/occupation%20lists> [accessed 16 August 2020].
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘Labour Force, Australia, September 2020 | Australian Bureau of Statistics’, 2020 <https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia/latest-release> [accessed 15 October 2020].
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia, September 2020’, 2020 <https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/industry/tourism-and-transport/overseas-arrivals-and-departures-australia/latest-release> [accessed 14 November 2020].
 Government of West Australia, ‘Media Statements – State Budget Boost to Secure More International Students to Perth’, 2019 <https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/McGowan/2019/05/State-Budget-boost-to-secure-more-international-students-to-Perth.aspx> [accessed 15 November 2020].
 Herlyn Kaur, ‘Fears COVID-19 Migration Drop Could Damage Australia’s Cultural Makeup’, 2020 <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-13/fears-wa-migration-drop-could-damage-multicultural-communities/12876238> [accessed 13 November 2020].
 Australian Government Productivity Commission, ‘Migrant Intake into Australia – Productivity Commission Inquiry Report’, 2016 <https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/migrant-intake/report> [accessed 23 February 2019].
 Government of West Australia, ‘Migration WA – WA Migration Services’.