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Migration overhaul needed amid skills shortage, says industry body

A peak industry body has called for an overhaul of Australia’s skilled migration program as businesses continue to be hit by skills shortages that are exacerbated by prolonged border closures.

Migration overhaul needed amid skills shortage, says industry body
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  • Adrian Flores
  • April 13, 2021
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For the longer term, Australia’s skilled migration program has become more complex and expensive and needs to be overhauled, Australian Chamber of Industry and Commerce acting chief executive Jenny Lambert said in a submission to the joint standing committee on migration.

She said a responsive, affordable and business-friendly migration system that has integrity checks in place is critically important to a strong, prosperous country in the future.

Ms Lambert further noted that the immediate imperative is for governments to work collectively on how the government manages arrivals, whether they be returning Australians or migrants, in a way that is proportionate to the risk and which best captures the economic opportunity. 

“Not all arrivals are coming in from high-risk countries, and important cohorts can be managed in a way that controls the risk, particularly with more of the arrivals having been vaccinated and tested overseas before travelling,” she said.

“For the longer term, our skilled migration program has become more complex and expensive and needs to be overhauled. A responsive, affordable and business-friendly migration system that has integrity checks in place is critically important to a strong, prosperous country in the future.”

Ms Lambert urged the federal government to make skilled migration more immediately accessible so business can access critical skills through Australia’s skilled migration program.

She noted that skills shortages have been exacerbated by the prolonged closure of Australia’s border, and this is evident both in sectors that have bounced back strongly as well as those that are still recovering.

“It is a matter of survival for businesses in the accommodation, hospitality, cafés and restaurants sectors to access skilled migration. But there is also a critical need for more professionals such as structural and civil engineers, surveyors and veterinarians in order for businesses to grow,” Ms Lambert said.

“Regional communities are intensively feeling the loss of migrants, not just for skilled workers, but for people to fill seasonal jobs in agriculture and hospitality where working holidaymakers traditionally filled the gaps.

“Farmers are letting fresh produce rot, and local businesses are either not opening some days, or closing off rooms, as they simply do not have the staff to service customers.”

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