Employment for migrants in Australia.
Employment for migrants in Australia.

Stats show we don’t need these migrants

AUSTRALIA'S immigration program has been slammed by an expert, who says it is not really aimed at addressing skills shortages.

Population expert Bob Birrell, a former Monash University professor and now head of the Australian Population Research Institute, has released new analysis on the skilled migration program that confirms many can't find jobs.

Mr Birrell points out that supporters of high immigration levels often spruik the role of migrants in delivering scarce skills. But he found the idea that the program was attracting migrants with in-demand skills was "a myth".

"Only a small proportion of recently-arrived migrant professionals are actually employed in professional positions," Mr Birrell's report Australia's Skilled Migration Program: Scarce Skills Not Required said.

He said the selection system did not prioritise occupations with skill shortages and so many professionals entering Australia were trained in fields that are currently oversupplied.

This includes accounting, engineering and many health professional fields.

Mr Birrell said the Skills Occupations List introduced in 2010 to target professions experiencing a "national shortage", had gradually been watered down and then scrapped altogether in 2016.

He believes the list was axed because of the pressure to maintain a high immigration program after the mining boom slowdown. Recently, Treasurer Scott Morrison said calls to reduce immigration could cost the Budget $1 billion a year.

"From the Treasury's point of view, low growth (that is without the population boost) means a slowdown in tax revenues," the report suggests.

"It will make it even harder for the government to rein in the budget deficit."

Adding to the pressure was the fall in overseas students due to a tougher university selection system introduced in 2011.

"Around half of all overseas students enrol in business and commerce courses, where most do the required accounting courses needed to attain the credentials to apply as an accountant or auditor for a Skill Stream visa," the report said.

"Many others do engineering courses. Should such occupations have become ineligible it would have dampened future enrolments."

So instead of being guided by genuine skills shortages, immigration is now allowed via the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skill List aimed at attracting occupations that could experience a future skill shortage. This does not address current skills needs.

"To the extent that the current program does deliver any scarce skills this is an accidental rather than a planned outcome," the report says.

Mr Birrell questions the effectiveness of looking to fill future shortages as young Australians could be encouraged to train in these areas instead.

 

"Australia is awash with graduates from both domestic and migrant sources," the paper notes.

"Demand for graduates may grow, but so too will supply."

Governments, educational authorities and innovation advocates are already encouraging young Australians to enter university, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) disciplines, and the recent deregulation of university enrolments will also ensure a growing supply of graduates.

Mr Birrell has analysed census results to identify whether professionals moving to Australia to fill skills shortages are actually getting jobs, and the answer is, in many cases they're not.

Census 2016 results showed just 24 per cent of educated migrants aged 25 to 34 years old from non-English-speaking countries arriving between 2011 and 2016, were able to find professional level jobs by 2016. Five per cent had found managerial jobs.

This compares with 50 per cent of those from mainly English-speaking countries who managed to get professional jobs and an extra 13 per cent in managerial jobs.

Young people born in Australia had the best prospects, with 58 per cent in professional jobs and 10 per cent in managerial jobs.

But despite the poor job prospects, Mr Birrell said people still wanted to live in Australia.

"The reason is that there is a huge pool of professionals in Asia who would like to move to a country with Australia's salary levels and quality of life," the report said.

"There is also an expanding number of Asian graduates from Australian university courses who want to convert their qualification into a permanent entry visa. Many of these professionals are not put off by Australia's soft labour market in some professions."

While Mr Birrell noted that there were caps on the number of visas that can be issued to each occupation, he said these numbers were so high they had little impact, except in the case of accountants.

Overall, he said Australia's skilled program was being driven by migrant demand, not the country's needs.

"Most recently arrived skilled migrants cannot find professional jobs," the report said.

"The Skill Stream program is deeply flawed."



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