From an original 17 occupations on the Priority Skilled Migration Occupation List (PMSOL) there are now 41 as of this week. This includes occupations such as Accountant, Chef, Software Engineer and Construction Project Manager. With the new budget and figures in place for skilled migration for the upcoming 2021 to 2022 program year, what it really signifies is the ability for employers to import skilled workers from overseas with automatic travel exemptions.

Despite COVID-19 and its economic impacts, unemployment rates are actually down to where they were prior to the pandemic, falling 0.4% to 5.1 % in May 2021. Approximately 115,000 Australians found work between April and May 2021, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Skills shortages abound and it’s not just the regional areas crying out for workers, it’s the metropolitan too. Never has it been so obvious how essential immigration is to the economy. And never has there been a better opportunity for the Department of Home Affairs to clean up its act.

Migrants make a huge contribution to Australian society and always have. Critical sectors during the pandemic such as child care, agriculture, aged care and now hospitality, have survived thanks to migrant workers. International students are now able to work full-time if they work in the hospitality sector as well as aged care and agriculture. One of our clients, a Construction Project Manager, who was sponsored on a temporary skills shortage visa, left the company to return to Germany last year to see family and returned a few months later without difficulty. Interesting, at a time when many Australians remain stranded overseas. Signifying once more that immigration is an economic imperative.

However, the recent CEDA (Committee for Economic Development of Australia) report that identified that only a quarter of skilled migrants actually obtain work in their field of experience and the level of salary of the occupation they are skilled in. That is to say, those who migrate to Australia using the points test but no guaranteed employment in their skilled occupation. Not great numbers if you are looking at the economic equation and the resulting taxation payments. Skilled migration and the points test creates bias towards those who have high levels of English which tends to limit the countries from which we are attracting the vast majority of these migrants.

It makes sense then to look instead at employer sponsorship pathways and recruitment matching to create effective migration outcomes. It’s not all black and white though. Refugees are also featured in Home Affairs reports that extoll their virtues and contributions to the economy as they are usually great entrepreneurs who are highly motivated to make a success of their lives for themselves and their families.

It’s time to revamp the immigration program to transition out of the pandemic. Going through all the visa options that currently exist can be like wading through a quagmire. Australia is becoming an attractive destination, with Hollywood superstars coming to live here, away from COVID restrictions overseas.

The existing COVID-19 visa allowing the government to bypass parliament for immigration regulations approval is one to be taken advantage of. Why not utilise it at this stage to create pathways to permanent residence for all those who are actually working in critical sectors and thereby guarantee employed migrants. Guaranteed work is a great way for migrants to fully integrate into the community and bring great diversity and productivity into the companies that employ them. After all, diverse organisations are the most productive and that’s where we need our economy to be right now.

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