POST 79: IS THE MCGOWAN GOVERNMENT’S MIGRATION POLICY ATTRACTING MORE FOREIGN WORKERS?

Introduction

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistic reveal nearly 90,000 West Australian’s are unable to gain employment.

West Australians’s stood down for economic reasons

As is revealed in Table 1 below the 90,000 figure is the offical unemployment estimate. However, this does not include West Australian citizens that were stood down for economic reasons and worked zero hours. If this group was listed as unemployed the figure rises to 98,000 West Australian’s looking for a job, (See Table 1).

With the Job-keeper subsidies being phased out by the end of March 2021, many of those that were stood down, may never return to their employment roles?

Table 1: Western Australia official unemployed rate seasonally adjusted and effective unemployment rate, January 2021.

MonthLabour force total (million)Official total unemployed (000’s)Official unemployment rate
Jan-211456.389.96.2%
MonthEconomic reasons zero hours, (000’s)Official unemployed plus zero hours (000’s)Unemployment plus zero hours (effective rate)
Jan-2021 8.200 98.106.7%

(Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2021)

An oversupply of temporary migrant workers?

The release of Australian government visa data showed that from July 2020 to January 2021, 8,000 visas were granted to foreign students to study and work in Western Australia, (See Table 2 below).

About 550,000 overseas students/graduates are currently in Australia, many moving from one visa to another to extend their stay in order to obtain permanent residency. A primary driver of student demand for Australian visas is the prospect of post study work and the potential of permanent migration.

Foreign students are afforded very generous work rights by the Federal government, qualifying for automatic work rights on arrival to Australia as part of their visa conditions. Research has shown that this is what entices foreign students to prolong their stay in Australia and apply for visa extensions. The higher wages on offer in Australia, compared to their countries of origin.

About 2,400 foreign students enrolled at TAFE courses, some enrolling at Level 3 which requires a minimum of 1-year training. After completing these short term courses, foreign students are eligible to apply for State nominated visas.

It is hard to envisage West Australia’s unemployment figures reducing in the near future, given the current supply of foreign workers moving to WA. In January 2021, the McGowan government invited 350 temporary migrants to apply for State nominated occupations.

Table 2 Foreign student visa grants in WA from July 2020 to 31 January 2021

Applicant typeSector2020-21 to 31 Jan 2021
PrimaryHigher Education Sector3,855
 Independent ELICOS Sector294
 Non-Award Sector32
 Postgraduate Research Sector221
 Schools Sector69
 Vocational Education and Training Sector1,935
Primary Total 6,406
SecondaryHigher Education Sector981
 Independent ELICOS Sector58
 Non-Award Sector
 Postgraduate Research Sector105
 Schools Sector
 Vocational Education and Training Sector446
Secondary Total 1,590
Grand Total 7,996

(Source: Australian Government, 2021)

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