Skilled migrant visa overhaul: How would it impact Australia?

'We cannot grow alone. Migration must be one of the pathways we explore'

Skilled migrant visa overhaul: How would it impact Australia?

Often nicknamed ‘the lucky country’, Australia has received the gift of opportunity.

It’s wrapped in relative domestic stability, an enviable health response to COVID-19 and strong foundations in education and skilled work for a promising future.

But is Australia ready to accept it?

While countries such as the United States pare back, migrants will look to Australia’s hallmarks of a safe bet and start making decisions which cumulatively can result in significant benefits to this country.

HRD recently reported that it’s recognised by CEDA modelling that migrants can have positive impacts on wages and employment of Australian-born workers.

For Michael Stutley, partner at Kingston Reid, Australia has potential to become the next education hub, or the next technology or research destination.

“This happens directly and indirectly because we all work, and we all consume. It seems logical that the more of us doing that, the faster our economy recovers and can start to grow again,” he said.

Stutley told HRD that he agrees with CEDA’s report that focused on how leading the world in attracting the best global talent is essential to attracting investment and training locals to build industry capability.

He offered the example of a large international construction company which sees an opportunity to expand its Australian operations with the benefit of a highly skilled professional (Jorge) from its international operations.

The government has previously recognised this opportunity and introduced policy and reform to make it possible for business to think big.

Jorge gets his skilled visa. He brings his partner, Sara, and their children, Ben (16) and Allie (19). Sara is a nurse specialising in aged care and finds a role at a local facility. She provides much needed relief to those who have been working double shifts for the last four months.

Read more: Morrison government hunting global talent to boost Aussie jobs

Ben is going to high school and finds a role on a casual basis at a supermarket, while Allie is going to university and finds a role at a local restaurant.

Jorge starts working and expanding the national construction business. He needs more people in his team – so he hires:

  • Nic and Amy, two recent engineering graduates, who were concerned they would never find jobs thanks to COVID-19.
  • Kat, a personal assistant, who was made redundant from her last role because of COVID-19.

Jorge and Sara rent their house from Ray and Pauline who are retired now but were struggling with the burden of an un-rented property through COVID-19.

They find they are busy during the day, so they hire a gardener, Jim. Jim is grateful for the work because his was one of the first industries that people started cutting back on.

Jorge, Sara, Ben and Allie all like to travel on weekends and see the sights. They make the most of their long weekends by booking extended stays.

Jorge is enormously successful in his expansion project. The construction company takes off and goes on a hiring spree to find skilled trades and other roles to complete all of their newly booked residential builds.

Consequently, the addition of the original four (Jorge, Sara, Ben and Allie) has had a net positive effect on:

  • Six people directly (Nic, Amy, Kat, Ray, Pauline and Jim);
  • all those people who now have jobs because of Jorge’s success and the construction company thinking big (technicians, trade workers, clerical and administrative workers, sales personnel, labourers, TAFE and university graduates);
  • all those people and industries who benefit from additional tourism; and
  • all those people and industries who benefit from increased participation in the education sector.

Stutley added that there are also the indirect benefits to restaurants, sports and small business providing services to all of the additional consumers – “everything down to the morning coffee on the way to work”.

Read more: JobMaker: Scott Morrison plans to get economy 'out of ICU'

“Jorge, Sara, Ben and Allie also pay taxes which go to the Government and which the Government has an increased focus in using on large infrastructure projects,” he said.

“We cannot grow alone. Migration must be one of the pathways we explore. But, to make it work, we need to provide a level of certainty for migrants.”

The CEDA report found one strategy was extending JobKeeper or other financial support to temporary migrants.

However, Stutley argues that we can start simpler than that.

“It begins with recognising the difficulty faced by migrants either in staying in Australia or returning to home countries (with border restrictions the worst they have been).”

He said an alternative solution may involve providing an alternative visa pathway for migrants currently in Australia (something more substantive than a bridging visa).

“It could also involve having structured and considered relaxation of certain visa conditions that currently restrict some migrants from working / continuing to work and therefore from providing much needed support and economic stimulation,” said Stutley.

“This was most recently, and successfully, rolled out in the health and aged care sector. It can be industry focused or location based. Either way, it is a ready-made workforce.”

Another solution could be an amnesty – “the question deserves debate in the national discussion”, according to Stutley.

“It may not be appropriate in all circumstances. At its simplest, we need to work more and consume more to grow the economy,” he said.

“Before we can though, we need to rely on employers creating jobs. Before employers can create jobs, employers need flexibility and a commitment by Government to continuously identify and be open to opportunities.”

Recent articles & video

Is Westpac setting a workplace trend?

Victoria’s Secret names new CHRO

Thousands at rubber glove factory test positive for COVID-19

Class actions on the rise: What employers need to know

Most Read Articles

NSW repeals work-from-home order as Gladys Berejiklian urges employees back into offices

Scott Morrison flags industrial relations changes that may not please anyone

Findex CPO talks recruitment strategy as NSW/VIC border reopens