Published on January 4th, 2011 | by john.weir4
Thousands face migration backlog ; but Australia still needs skills
More than 140,000 applicants for skilled migration to Australia are caught up in an administative backlog of over 2 years.
Worse still, business leaders say, Australia needs more skilled workers – and quickly. According to the Herald Sun, the business community says that there is a “looming skills shortage and a wages breakout driven by a resurgent economy.” Several newspapers in Australia are quoting minutes from a secret briefing given to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen by his department which said that, in order to offset the ageing of the workforce, migration would need to remain at levels that would lead to Australia having a population of 35.9 million by 2050 – the figure that sparked the “big Australia” debate and Julia Gillard’s promise of a sustainable Australia.
Several senior figures are expressing their disquiet at both the delays in processing times and also the need to allow more skilled labour into Australia to meet demand.
Reserve Bank director Graham Kraehe has called for an increase to skilled immigration.”I think skills shortages are a major problem and if we don’t increase the amount of skilled migration then we are going to have some real pressure on wages,” he said.
“Two things are critical: one is some measures to improve productivity, which has been very poor in the last three or four years and declining; and the second is to increase the skilled immigration quotas so we can address what is already a shortage and something that is putting pressure on project costs and more broadly will put pressure on wages costs in the community.”
Wesfarmers chief executive Richard Goyder – who oversees one of the country’s biggest employers spanning Coles supermarkets and Bunnings hardware stores – said he was keeping a “very close eye” on skills shortages.
“It’s something we are very aware of, particularly in engineering, both skilled and semi-skilled areas. In the industrial businesses we’ve got particularly, it’s something we are acutely aware of.”
Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said skills shortages would only grow in the months and years ahead and were contributing to wages inflation. “We are at the early stage of a very, very big investment boom in Australia and that would suggest these are going to get worse,” Ms Ridout said. “How these skilled migration systems and processes work is going to be really important over the next few years. They are certainly biting now.”
So it would appear that the Immigration Department will be placed under increasing pressure in the coming months to alleviate both the backlog, and work with state immigration departments to ensure critical vacancies are filled.
If you would like to know more about opportunities in Australia, come to the “Your Move To Australia” seminars in Guildford (22nd January) or Leeds (29th January).