Urgent Fix to Counteract Skills Crisis

The Albanese government is shifting the focus of visa applications to counteract the shortage of health, education and aged care skilled workers.

Prior to the pandemic, the Morrison government capped total migration intake at 160,000 per year, and when COVID-19 hit, it caused 600,000 temporary visa holders to depart the country, leaving large gaps across industries including health, hospitality, and construction. These hardest hit industries have continued to experience labour concerns for transport, storage, manufacturing, and retail roles.

When borders reopened in December 2021, departmental resources were redirected to processing pandemic travel exemptions and policing the border, creating back-log of visa processing. Pre-election, Scott Morrison said it would be a while before the current cap of 160,000 migrant intakes would be achieved, and flagged reassessing the situation at a later date.

Cry for increases in the Migration Cap 

Businesses, companies, and employer groups have agreed that increasing migrant intake and upskilling Australians are the two top ways to solve this shortage and prevent similar future catastrophes.  They are wanting the cap to increase to 200,00 migrants per year for the next two years as well as increasing traineeships and apprenticeships to upskill Australians.

There is currently a backlog of 961,016 visa applicants. Of these, 560,187 have been lodged from outside of Australia. The new government is prioritising the 57,906 of these applications seeking permanent work visas, with a focus on teachers, health workers and aged care skilled staff to counteract the current shortages. There are also 13,806 offshore applicants seeking temporary visas. Approximately 81% of permanent visas over the last two years were granted to applicants already in Australia, and it is essential for this focus to change. Departmental resources will now be diverted from lower skilled permanent residency applications within the country to these higher skilled workers overseas.

Announcement of Jobs and Skills Summit

The move is a down payment on an anticipated increase to the size and composition of permanent migration intake, to be announced after the Jobs and Skills Summit, which will be held at Parliament House in Canberra on 1–2 September. The Summit will bring together Australians, including unions, employers, civil society and governments to address our shared economic challenges.

Changes are already afoot

623,000 temporary and permanent visa applications have been reported by Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil as processed since June 1, with processing times decreasing from eleven months in May to four months in June for offshore permanent visa applicants. Part of addressing and reprioritizing the backlog includes nearly scrapping the Global Talent Program (GTP), where millions have been put towards seeking highly skilled professionals across the globe. 77% of Global Talent visas were allocated to applicants already in Australia over the last year and most of these applicants already in another visa category. More than 40% of the GTP’s 15,000 places have been cut and only offshore applicants will now be reviewed.

Source: Australian Financial Review, July 2022

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