Aussie migration scheme 'not working properly'

The UK government's determination to adopt a post-Brexit immigration regime based on an Australian-style points system could be undermined by new research by the University of Adelaide, which indicates the system is not working as it should.

Australia as seen from space at night
The survey of more than 1,700 skilled migrants living in South Australia found 53% reporting they were not utilising the skills and abilities they possessed, with 44% working in a job different to the one they nominated in their visa application.Additionally, roughly 15% were unemployed at the time of the survey, or for most of their time in Australia, despite having skills deemed by the government to be in short supply.

Skilled migration programme failing to achieve full economic potential

"Federal and state governments are looking for migrants to meet skills shortfalls and keep the economy growing. Migrants are looking for a better lifestyle and economic opportunities," write the authors - Andreas Cebulla, senior research fellow at the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies, University of Adelaide, and George Tan, adjunct fellow - on The Conversation AU website."But our research suggests the skilled migration programme is failing to achieve its full economic potential, dashing personal dreams in the process. Many skilled migrants are simply not finding the opportunities they anticipated."The Australian system, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered the Migration Advisory Committee to adapt to the UK's post-Brexit needs, is based on awarding points for such things as professional and educational qualifications, age, work experience and language proficiency.

Regional variations to the Aussie migration scheme

It is not always necessary for applicants to have a job offer under the scheme and there are regional variations in the system to overcome local skills shortages."Our results indicate a big mismatch between the expectations of new migrants and the reality of the labour market – in the jobs available and in employer expectations. In short, the skilled migration programme simply isn’t working the way it is supposed to," say the authors.

Have your say: the UK government's Migration Advisory Committee wants your input

The report says that, in 2017-18, about 178,000 permanent visas were granted - 111,000 of them for migrants with skills. Of the latter, about 35,000 were employer-sponsored, meaning visa holders had a guaranteed job, while 7,000 were for migrants investing in an Australian business.

70% of migrants have professional qualifications, compared to just 20% of general South Australian population

But the majority – about 68,000 – arrived under the General Skilled Migration (GSM) programme, based on having skills deemed in short supply under the federal government’s Skilled Occupation List, which currently covers more than 670 occupations, including specific, one-off vacancies such as 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker'."In our survey sample, nearly 70% had professional qualifications. This compares to just 20% of the general South Australian population. There was also a high rate of technical and trades skills," say the authors."Despite this, success in getting a job matching their qualifications was mixed. The unemployment rate was twice the state average. A further 15% reported being underemployed, working fewer hours than they would have liked."In the interviews we did, many expressed frustration and disappointment about how things had turned out. Given the expense and ordeal of obtaining a GSM visa and then moving to Australia, many had expected the visa would lead automatically to a job."There was also a widely held view that Australian employers discriminated against hiring anyone who didn’t have have local experience. Migrants thus found themselves in a classic Catch-22 situation – they couldn’t get local experience because they didn’t have local experience."Other perceived barriers were that the jobs the migrants were qualified for simply did not exist; or that employers did not recognise overseas qualifications; or that firms were reluctant to hire them "because they were foreign and lacked fluency in English".The authors conclude, "These findings point to a clear problem with the GSM programme.Migrants are being drawn to Australia on the basis their skills are needed, but many are finding employers reluctant to hire them. The whole methodology that underpins the programme – with state and territory sponsorships that implicitly encourage aspiring migrants – needs to be revisited."

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