Australia’s migration system could be in for a major overhaul to deal with both short and long-term skills shortages.
But the government is being urged not to abandon local workers as parliamentarians look into how migration can be used to underpin Australia’s economic future.
The National Farmers Federation is calling for easier access to workers to address shortages.
The farmers federation says finding and retaining labour is a problem for the industry given the seasonal nature of some jobs on top of long hours, rural work and an ageing population.
“Migration will remain an important part of the workforce puzzle,” it said in a submission to the parliamentary migration inquiry.
The federation says the focus should not be solely on a quick fix.
“That doesn’t mean the system should be restricted to merely providing short-term, crisis relief,” it said.
The Grattan Institute says the permanent skilled migration program should not target short-term shortages but rather seek highly skilled migrants who can boost the economy in the long run.
“Targeting higher-wage migrants would fill most genuine skills shortages, limit exploitation, simplify sponsorship for employers, and increase the pool of high-quality applicants for permanent visas,” it said in its submission.
“Expanding less skilled temporary migration could undercut the wages of low-paid Australians and further increase exploitation. It could also erode public trust in our migration program.”
The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies has recommended raising the migration cap and boosting the allocations of workers to the sector to avoid future shortages.
“While there is a strong preference to offer local training and employment opportunities in the first instance, where this is not possible, companies are reliant on suitable visa settings to supplement the local workforce to meet demand,” the association said.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry also called for the cap to be increased to fill labour gaps.
The Master Builders Association supported the cap increase and said less demanding English language requirements and expanding post-study eligibility for visas should be on the table.
It also wants the government to explore an apprentice visa pilot program.
The Tech Council added that skilled migration would help grow the $167 billion sector which employs more than 860,000 people.
(Australian Associated Press)