New trade deal could open the door for British workers to fill skills gap

Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan is pursuing a new trade deal with London that could see British migrants plug an impending skills gap that could undermine the recovery of the Australian economy from the coronavirus pandemic.

A new free-trade agreement is due to be finalised imminently, making it easier for people to live and work in both countries, however Tehan will seek extra visa changes to help attract even more British citizens to the Australian workforce.

The Australian government is eager to avoid the labour shortage challenges that have been plaguing parts of Europe as they emerge from the pandemic.  Australia’s highly restricted migration policy over the past 18 months has heightening fears a resurgent economy will not have enough workers for key industries, impacting their ability to rebound strongly.  

New Free Trade Deal

Under the new free trade deal, which will probably come into force on July 1, 2022, we can expect the following changes:

  • Increase in the working holiday visa age limit from 30 to 35
  • Increase the maximum visa duration to 3-years (currently 2-years)

Tehan has flagged Australia’s commitment to doing more than what the new trade deal currently offers on mobility, with thoughts of lifting the working holiday visa age limit to at least 40 and exploring new visas to attract more farm workers.

The 2021 Intergenerational Report forecasts net overseas migration will rise from the government’s cap of 160,000 places a year to 235,000 people per year by 2024-25. Changes to skilled migration policy as well as free trade and migration agreements with key international partners are vital to affecting this increase.

In June, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his British counterpart Boris Johnson signed an in-principle agreement for the free-trade with the final text expected to be completed by the end of October. There is possibility that the leaders could sign the deal on the sideline of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, however both parties may not want the signing overshadowed by the climate talks.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 2021

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