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Skill Shortages in Australia

Published: 27 Jul 2022

Australia’s focus is currently working with Governmental Departments to ensure that sufficient allocations are made to accommodate for businesses who are struggling to find skilled workers to assist in their post COVID-19 recovery and to ensure visa processing times are an absolute priority in addressing these very skills shortages.

Australia

  1. Skills Shortages

Australia’s skilled worker shortage saw record breaking decrease in migration from 2020 to 2022 as Australia’s unemployment rate is down to 3.5%, its lowest since 1974.[1] This can be seen as “NSW Department of Education documents in May showed 1906 permanent teaching positions were vacant across the state – 67 per cent higher than at the same time last year.”[2]

The skills and labour shortages are occurring at a time of historically low unemployment and high rates of participation and despite this skills shortage, employer sponsored visa applications, both temporary and permanent streams are increasing, but at a very slow rate. [3]

Current vacancies are increasing in key industry sectors such as education, mining, financial services, but most importantly, healthcare with job vacancies for healthcare in the 70,000 range as of May 2022. [4]

Three major recommendations which we suggest, to address these labour and skill shortages are:

  1. Given the fact that we have a labour market shortage, both Subclass 482 & ENS applications should be processed on a demand driven basis without the need for limit on visa applications.
  2. The Government should commit to processing all decision ready Subclass 482 Temporary Skilled Visa Applications for approved employers within a guaranteed timeframe, for example 4-6 weeks and permanent Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) applications within a guaranteed timeframe, for example 10-12 weeks. This approach can be proven successful and in the footsteps of our U.K counterparts’ approach to the visa backlog.
  3. Given the fact, Labour Market Testing (LMT) has been described as an artificial process, by certain sectors, and business communities, we believe that LMT designated occupations that are not in national shortage.

Australia’s Job Summit, due to be held in September of 2022, is said to intend to bring together businesses, unions, civil society, and other levels of government together. Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese has stated in a press release surrounding issues of Migration and Visa Backlogs in relation to skill shortages, saying “"We've deliberately chosen to put this jobs and skills summit before the October budget that we'll be handing down because there may be steps proposed and agreed to at the summit which could be implemented quickly”. [5] The agenda for the summit will be released by the end of July.

Below we outline how the Australia government is addressing these visa processing times.

  1. Visa Processing

In an article published by SBS News Australia, “It's been revealed the backlog facing the government is close to a million applications across several visa categories, the problem stemming from the impact of the COVID-19 border closure… New government figures have revealed, that the current visa backlog is 961,016 visa applications across all categories with some 560,187 lodged by people outside Australia. This includes 57,906 skilled workers seeking permanent visas. Another 13,806 offshore visa applicants are seeking temporary visas.” [6]

In saying this, Australia has only 96,000 skilled temporary visa holders in Australia which is a decrease of nearly 100,000 migrants since 2014. Furthermore “fewer than 1 per cent of the nearly 60,000 permanent visa applications the Albanese government is fast-tracking to fix dire shortages in schools and hospitals are education or health professionals. An insight into addressing these shortages was revealed by Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said last week she would prioritise processing offshore permanent skilled worker applications, especially teachers, health workers and aged care staff, to plug skills gaps ahead of changes to migration policy.”[7]

This demand in certain sectors comes as there has been a serge in job dissatisfaction and shortage of critical staff. “Nurses and teachers’ unions have said that staff in their industries are overworked and at breaking point due to labour shortages. However, there are hopes as “Minister O’Neil’s decision to prioritise processing of applications by skilled migrants is a down payment on an anticipated increase to the size and composition of the permanent migration intake which ought to be announce at the upcoming Job Summit in September.”[8]

Potential Solutions

The suggestions, which can be held mutually with many who work in the migration sector are as follows:

  1. Department of Home Affairs directions and policies need to be revised, in particular, outlining the order of priority allocation and consideration of nomination and/or visa applications as these are no longer relevant in a climate where there are significant labour and skill shortages in all industries.
  2. Transparency in visa processing and priority lists such as the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) are key areas in need of revision and  change. Given that Australia is  entering a post-COVID era, all industries across the country are experiencing a steep degree in skill and labour shortages finding the PMSOL to be irrelevant as not only does it promote the idea that one sector has  priority over another, it may give  false hope to the priority sectors listed, in thinking their visa applications will expedited when in fact, there is no transparency surrounding processing time
  3. Promotion of Permanent Visa Pathways for skilled migration.  A possible solution and/ or suggestion  could be reducing the three-year requirement for TSS visa holders to be employed with their sponsoring employer before being eligible for applying for permanent residence.  This change, if adopted, would reduce the current requirement which may be a deterrent to potential migrants from accessing the permanent residency pathway.
  4. Removal of barriers for visa entry for clearly highly skilled Visa Applicants and reputable employer/sponsors.  

[1] Fears Skill Shortage may delay Australia’s renewables progress’ Bella Peacock, 20 July 2022, https://www.pv-magazine-australia.com/2022/07/20/fears-skill-shortages-may-delay-australias-renewable-progress/.

[2] Of 60,000 Visa Applicants in the queue, 32 are aged care nurses’, Financial Review, David Marin-Guzman, 24 July 2022, https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/workplace/of-60-000-visa-applicants-in-the-queue-32-are-aged-care-nurses-20220724-p5b419?.

[3] Tripartite bargain on Immigration Policy’ Abul Rizvi, 22 June 2022, https://johnmenadue.com/tripartite-bargain-on-immigration-policy/.

[4] Mobilising overseas workers during Australia’s skill shortage, Taya Hunt and Megan Arends, 25 July 2022,  https://www.minterellison.com/articles/mobilising-overseas-workers-during-australias-skill-shortage#.Yt5QKG__tZE.linkedin.

[5] Temporary Migration not the answer to Australia’s skills shortages’ SBS, 11 July 2022, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/temporary-migration-not-the-answer-to-australias-skills-shortages-anthony-albanese-says/i0gq90maa.

[6] Skilled Workers prioritized amid backlog of almost one million visa applications’ Tom Stayner, 20 Jul 2022,  https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/skilled-workers-prioritised-amid-backlog-of-almost-one-million-visa-applications/xi6uoobic.

[7] ‘Of 60,000 Visa Applicants in the queue, 32 are aged care nurses’, Financial Review, David Marin-Guzman, 24 July 2022, https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/workplace/of-60-000-visa-applicants-in-the-queue-32-are-aged-care-nurses-20220724-p5b419?.

[8] Of 60,000 Visa Applicants in the queue, 32 are aged care nurses’, Financial Review, David Marin-Guzman, 24 July 2022, https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/workplace/of-60-000-visa-applicants-in-the-queue-32-are-aged-care-nurses-20220724-p5b419?.

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Anne O'Donoghue

Firm: Immigration Solutions Lawyers
Country: Australia

Practice Area: Corporate Immigration

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