POST 97: CLAIMS OF AUSTRALIAN SKILL SHORTAGES DISPUTED

Introduction

West Australian Industries have been ramping up a campaign about “skill shortages’’, but how accurate are they?

What is revealing is how ‘’hit or miss’’ the estimate of “skills shortages’’ are. Or the reliability of short, medium and long term occupation lists.

Government officials lack timely data on changes to wages and employment for each of the one thousand or so Australian and New Zealand Standard occupation codes.

Adding to the unreliability of occupation demand is the fact Industry groups have considerable input into selecting migrant occupations in a process described by experts as a “black box”.

Latest research

According to the Grattan Institute, the occupation lists include many low-skill low-wage occupations, indicating the current migrant lists are inefficient in attracting higher skills (See Chart 1 below).

There research points out that State-nominated and regional points-tested streams produce poorer outcomes in terms of the skills and incomes of selected migrants.

This has implications for the WA State government migration policy and indeed for West Australian residents searching for employment at the lower skilled end of the Labour market..

In 2018 the McGowan government set up a Foreign Graduate Occupation List, providing another pathway to migration under the State Nominated Migration Program (SNMP)

Then in 2019, the McGowan government designated Perth as regional for priority processing of regional visas.

Access to the Regional Occupations List provides more jobs compared to non-regional migration lists.

Solutions

The Grattan Institute provide a robust solution to the over supply of low skilled migrant workers.

Employer sponsorship should be curtailed and targeted at skilled occupations which earn above the median full-time wage of $80,000 a year.

Thus, restricting Industries from hiring low wage temporary visa holders that substitute local labour and compress workforce wages.

Population Research Perth would also recommended State Nominations start at the median full time wage. Limiting Nominations to applicants in higher skilled categories. This should also include level 1 English literacy testing. Spoken and written communication is essential for good workplace productivity.

Complementing local skills is always a better option than substituting resident workers with low wage temporary migrants.

Chart 1: Incomes and Migration Occupation lists

(Source: Grattan Institute, 31 May 2021)

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