Monday, May 17, 2010

Too many cooks: Our immigration program gets saner

Australia is about to become harder to get in to if you are a dance instructor, piano tuner, hairdresser or chef.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans has slashed by half the list of 400 occupations given an easy ride into Australia in the independent skilled migration program, replacing them with 180 "highly valued occupations".

Still on the list are medical professionals including osteopaths, dentists, surgeons and nurses, as well as engineers, teachers, IT professionals and welders. But off the list from July will be dance instructors, piano tuners and - significantly - hairdressers and cooks.

"In 2007-08 as we came to office of the 41,000 general skilled visas granted, more than 5000 went to hairdressers and cooks," said Immigration Minister Chris Evans.

"And three quarters of them had studied in Australia... Our migration program should not be determined by the courses studied by our international students."

Senator Evans said the new list, developed by the independent body Skills Australia, would ensure the skilled migration program was demand-driven rather than supply-driven.

"We value the international education sector. Its students will still be able to apply for permanent migration or be nominated by employers but we will no longer almost automatically accept the thousands of cooks and hairdressers who applied under the guidelines established by the Howard government.”

The Minister flagged the change in February saying that far more people applied for skilled migration than the 108,000 places available.

"The old system served everyone in order, just like pulling a ticket number from the dispenser at the supermarket deli counter," he said.

"Our reforms will shift skilled migration from the supply-driven system we inherited to a demand-driven system. We need the skills that are actually in demand in the economy, not just those applicants present with."

"If hospitals are crying out for nurses they should have priority over the 12,000 unsponsored cooks who have applied and who, if all were granted visas, would flood the market."

Skills Australia was set up in 2008 with the express purpose of identifying skills shortages. Its 8-person board includes the head of the Australian Industry Group Heather Ridout, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Sharan Burrow and a former head of the Prime Minister's Department Michael Keating.

It will update the pared-down skills list annually.

Senator Evans said students already in Australia intending to apply for permanent residence could take advantage of transition provisions announced in February.

A separate report released this morning by the economic consultancy BIS Shrapnel finds that population growth is set to slow sharply in response to lower foreign student numbers and a drop in the number of sponsored applicants for short-term work visas.

An Australian Industry Group survey also released today finds 75 per cent of employers are dissatisfied with the skills of their Australian-trained workers with 45 per cent believing their labourers have worrying low literacy and numeracy skills and 25 per cent believing their apprentices have low skills.

Published in today's SMH and Age 

New Skilled Occupation List 2010

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