Labor promises massive increase in migration to lure workers
May 17, 2008
IMMIGRATION Minister Chris Evans wants a major overhaul of the migrant program to boost numbers, promote unskilled as well as skilled applicants and gear Australia to the new global competition for workers.
Predicting a "great national debate over the next few years", Senator Evans said he planned to bring a series of cabinet submissions to reform a "model that is out of date" and too unresponsive to employer needs. He said the debate about temporary migration was over; the coming debate would be about semi-skilled and unskilled migrants to meet labour shortages.
Next month, cabinet is expected to approve a pilot program for a guest worker scheme from the South Pacific. Senator Evans called this a "stalking horse" for the larger debate on unskilled migration.
His comments came after the Rudd Government's first budget, delivered on Tuesday,lifted permanent and temporary migration for 2008-09 to nearly 300,000 in the biggest annual increase since the program's inception by the Chifley government in the 1940s.
The skilled component of the permanent intake is running at 70 per cent, probably the highest ever.
"My general view is that we are increasingly facing a labour shortage, not just a skills shortage," Senator Evans told The Weekend Australian.
"The demands of business are hitting us in the face. What I'm thinking about is a fairly serious overhaul of the migration system and trying to design a visa and migration system that meets the realities of the 21st century and the internationalisation of the labour market.
"There is a lack of responsiveness to employer needs. What's not widely understood is that there is a global competition for labour. The workforce is more contract based. BHP (Billiton) brings an engineer here from South America for two years and he'll be in Africa two years later. It's the nature of his work."
Asked about the hefty increase in the intake announced on budget night, Senator Evans said: "It was certainly driven by the economics.
"No doubt Wayne Swan had his eyeon wage inflation pressure and Treasury advice about that. But fundamentally it's a response to the huge demand for labour."
Senator Evans said the Government's first response to shortages was more education and training but "the reality is that there are demands now that won't be met by that agenda". This was true in the short-term and long-term.
He said he had two aims - to make the program more responsive to industry and to restore its integrity, notably the 457 temporary visas, to eliminate exploitation and any undermining of Australian conditions. This was critical because there was urgent pressure on the 457 program for a shift down the skill scale from professionals such as doctors and engineers to tradesmen and IT workers.
"The demand is often for truck drivers, store managers, below tradesman-level jobs in the mining industry," Senator Evans said. "More broadly we have an ageing population. My inclination is not to do reviews, but get on with it. As a cabinet, we are engaged with this issue.
"I think Australians are prepared to accept strong migration provided they think we need the skills and contributions that people bring."
He foreshadowed a relaxation of the former government's rigid rules about migrants' ability to speak English. Some of its measures were "pretty clunky and actually stopped business operating".
By Paul Kelly, Editor-at-Large, May 17, 2008 The Australian
New residence requirements for Australian Citizenship
On 1 March 2007, theAustralian Citizenship Bill 2006was passed by the Australian Parliament.
It is likely that the new legislationwill commence on 1 July 2007.
The new residence requirements for Australian citizenship will mean that applicants will need:
four (4) years lawful residence in Australia immediately prior to making an application for Australian citizenship with at least 12 months as a permanent resident
absences from Australia of no more than 12 months in total in the four (4) years prior to application , and no more than three (3) months in the 12 month permanent residency period prior to application.
The new residence requirements will only apply to people who become permanent residents on or after commencement of the legislation .
People who are permanent residents before the commencement of the new legislation will only need to meet the current residence requirements (presence in Australia as a permanent resident for periods amounting to two (2) years in the last five (5) years including one (1) year in the last two (2) immediately prior to making the application) provided they applied within three (3) years from the day the legislation commences.
Permanent residents who apply for Australian citizenship before the legislation commences will need to meet the current residence requirements.
The new changes recognise time spent in Australia as temporary residents prior to the acquisition of permanent residence. Up to three (3) years of temporary residence will count towards the four (4) year residence requirement for citizenship.
In other words, people who become permanent residents after the changes commence and have been living in Australia on temporary visas immediately before becoming a permanent resident will be able to have up to three (3) years of the time spent as holders of temporary visas counted towards the four (4) year residence requirement. They will need to have a minimum of one (1) year as a permanent resident. Source: http://www.citizenship.gov.au/news/index.htm
How Australia fills mining labour gaps
Published: Wednesday, 7th March 2007
VANCOUVER -- Canada might find ideas to help ease the worker shortages facing mining companies by studying the example of Australia, where the easing of temporary worker rules has brought an influx of new labour into Outback mines.
“There are all sorts of adjustments being made in terms of immigration laws, and all sorts of things to allow more professionals to come into the country, and Australia would probably be a good model as to where Canada is heading,” said Ken Brouwer, managing director of engineering firm Knight Piesold in Vancouver.
Last year, Canada granted twice as many temporary work visas as Australia did, but industry observers say the Aussie system is more responsive and easier to navigate . For one thing, Australia does not require employers seeking foreign hires to obtain labour-market opinions, which in Canada are designed to ensure overseas workers are not stealing jobs from Canadians. Those opinions can take up to 11 weeks to obtain.
Like Canada, Australia has a 30-year low in unemployment, and it's estimated its minerals sector will face a shortfall of 70,000 workers in the next decade. As a result, Australian mine companies have hired temporary foreign workers in rapidly increasing numbers. It brought in 2,840 in 2006, nearly doubling its intake of the previous year.
“There's really an incredible people shortage, and added to that you've got the problem of attracting people from the eastern seaboard in Australia to remote areas in Western Australia,” said Louise Dodson, an official with the Mineral Council of Australia. “In a lot of cases it's been easier to attract temporary workers from overseas.”
The Australian temporary foreign worker documents, called “457 visas,” allow industry to hire international employees for between three months and four years. The program obliges sponsor companies to cover return travel expenses and all Australian medical costs, and guarantees a minimum salary.
To be eligible, companies must also employ Australians and provide proof that their operations foster new business skills and technology, expand Australian trade and improve domestic competitiveness.
The program “enables critical skills to be sourced at relatively short notice,” Peter Terlick, executive officer for education and training with the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, wrote in an e-mail.
By Nathan Vanderklippe , Financial Post
More Australian migrants now using Migration Agents
9th February 2007
It now seems more immigrants to Australia are using agents compared to immigrants of other destinations according to the latest Emigrate Australia reader survey. 59.4% of readers now say they are using an immigration consultant for their applications.
The Emigrate Australia reader survey looked at various issues of the immigration process including demographics, family factors, motivations and the immigration process. Other significant trends for Australia include Western Australia taking out a clear victory as the preferred destination for UK migrants (followed by South Australia) and financial motivations rising in comparison to lifestyle and climate factors.
Most respondents indicated that the WAITING was the most difficult part of the process. Therefore, there is a strong case for using an immigration consultant, who can help the applicant AVOID DELAYS and assist with QUICKER PROCESSING by presenting a 100% correct and complete application.
Secondly, the application process and preparing paperwork was also perceived to be a difficult part of the process. Again, there is a strong case for IMMIGRATION CONSULTANTS who can make the application process smoother and clearer and provide personalised assistance and representation in this bureaucratic process.
The vast majority of readers indicated the more appealing lifestyle and safer place to bring up children, with climate being a major factor for emigration to Australia.
Source: Emigrate Australia
Crack down on employers of illegal workers
Wednesday, 7th February 2007
Employers and labour suppliers who knowingly or recklessly employ illegal workers from overseas will face tough new penalties, under legislation which passed Parliament today.
While the overwhelming majority of employers and labour suppliers in Australia do the right thing and will not be affected by the new law, this legislation targets those who deliberately assist or exploit illegal workers.
Employers and labour suppliers will face maximum penalties of two years' imprisonment and/or fines of $13,200 for individuals and $66,000 for companies.
The legislation includes a higher penalty where an illegal worker is being exploited through slavery, forced labour or sexual servitude.
Individuals convicted would face up to five years' jail and fines up to $66 000, with a maximum penalty of $165 000 for a body corporate.
Employers will receive guidance on how to check work rights and to ensure they have enough information and support to make sure they comply with the law.
Illegal work takes job opportunities away from Australian citizens and lawful migrants, and in some cases is linked to organised crime.
The Government relies on the assistance of employers and employer groups to identify employers of illegal workers, and will continue to work with these groups to deal with employers who break these laws.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) will run a comprehensive information campaign to ensure employers are aware of their obligations under the new law, before it is expected to come into effect in August 2007.
In July 2004, DIAC introduced an internet-based work rights checking service called Entitlement Verification Online , so that employers can quickly and easily check the work rights of prospective employees. This online service complements telephone and fax-back services and other support DIAC provides to employers.
Australian Government To Grant 144,000 Residence Visas
The total migration (non-humanitarian) programme for 2006-07 is in the range of 134,000 to 144,000 places. This will comprise 97,500 places in the Skill Stream and 46,000 places in the Family Stream.
On the back of a record jump in migration of 20,000 extra places in the Skill Stream this programme year, the Australian Government will maintain the Skill Stream at that increased level through 2006-07.
Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Amanda Vanstone, said “This year we have worked extremely hard to increase the proportion of skilled migrants sponsored by employers or States and regions.”
“We have done this by matching skilled migrants with employers through a number of avenues including skills expos, both onshore and offshore; the availability of Regional Outreach Officers; and for the first time this year Industry Outreach Officers, who we have seconded to key industry groups, to support employers.”
Employer sponsored migration is up 22 per cent from the previous programme year – putting it at record levels in 2005-06.
The Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) has proven a vital tool. The number of the Skill Stream intake with occupations on the MODL, including their families, will increase four-fold to almost 40,000 people in 2005-06 compared to approximately 10,000 in 2004-05.
“The figures demonstrate that we are matching skilled migrants to areas of need to a greater extent than ever before,” Senator Vanstone said.
“This is why these migrants are performing exceptionally well in the labour market. We intend to further refine that matching in the upcoming financial year.
“The Migration Programme concentrates on the skills that business and industry are looking for but will also meet legitimate close family reunion needs.
“There will be a modest increase in the size of the Family Stream, up 1000 extra places to 46,000. The 1000 extra places will be available for spouse visas. This is on top of an extra 3000 places added to the planning levels for this year, with a total of 37,300 spouse visas in 2006-07.
“The increased demand for spouse visas is driven by two main factors – the increasing global mobility of young Australians and the larger sponsorship base created by the increased skilled migration intake.
Important changes will take effect from 1 July 2007
“The base level of English language proficiency will be raised for General Skilled Migration visas and bonus points will be increased for those who achieve English language scores above the base level. The government will also provide temporary visa mechanisms which will enable international students who have completed their studies, to gain work experience in Australia. These important changes will take effect from 1 July 2007.”
- Amanda Vanstone (Former Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs)
Emigrating to Australia is, for many people, a dream encouraged by the prospect of having a better standard of living.
But whether the cost of living in Australia is actually cheaper has always been a matter open for debate. However, treasury figures have recently been released revealing Australians are richer than ever, with each Australian being worth an average AUS$300,000 .
The market value of Australian net private-sector wealth was AUS$6200 billion, or AUS$6.2 trillion , as of June 2005 – up almost 12 per cent in a year. That represents about AUS$300,000 for each Australian.
Meanwhile, the growth in private wealth in 2004–05 was slower than in the previous three years, but above average for the past 20. Home ownership made a smaller contribution in 2004–05 while growth in private wealth was only 3.3 per cent, but homes and units still make up the lion's share (AUS$3600 billion) of private wealth.
The other major influence on wealth was the rise in share market prices over the past two years. Growth in business assets, which include shares and Australian investments abroad, contributed 9.6 per cent to wealth. This was a significant factor as it is more than double its long-term average contribution.
Business assets, totalling AUS$2,600 billion, made up a third of all Australian privately held wealth. Forty years ago, Australians were worth on average just AUS$8,600, with national private wealth hovering around $100 billion – more than a third of which was in homes.
In comparison, each Australian was worth AUS$8,600 in the 1960s with the figure growing to AUS$56,000 in the 1980s – more than a third of which was tied up in property. Economic conditions overall in Australia remain positive with the country's banking system well capitalised and highly profitable and bad debt levels low by both historical and international experience.
Reflecting Australia's continuing strong economic performance, the country's unemployment rate fell to a 32 year low of 4.5 per cent in January 2007 and annual growth in employment remains on an upward trend.
Australia has now seen unemployment below 5 per cent for nine months with 300 thousand new jobs created in the last year . In the last decade 2 million new jobs have been created.
"If we can continue to keep our economy growing with low inflation, if we can keep our Budget balanced with no debt, if we can continue to keep the process of economic reform going, we can keep unemployment as low as this," the Australian Treasurer, Mr Peter Costello said.
Employment growth has been broad-based, with the goods and services sectors both making significant contributions to year-end growth. Over the past year job creation was strong in construction, health & community services, wholesale trade, property & business services, and finance & insurance."
Jobs are created in an economy which is growing, where businesses are making profits so they can employ more people and where the structure of the labour market is friendly towards job creation", the Treasurer added.
The IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2006 ranks Australia as the most resilient economy in the world, the world's most politically stable country, and first in the world for governance by corporate boards. On top of that, the World Bank ranks Australia as the fastest place in the world to start a business, with regulatory procedures taking just two days . This all adds up to a compelling proposition for potential investors.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Survey shows that total employment now stands at 10,334,800 (seasonally adjusted) in January 2007. Full-time employment rose by 3,177 persons to 7,384,800 and part-time employment fell by 6,730 persons to 2,949,900. Employment is 3 per cent higher than a year ago.
Source: Invest Australia
Australia taps Indian migrants
18th September 2006
The number of migrants from India for the 12 months ending in June this year shot up to 11,286, a jump of 20 per cent over the previous financial year, according to Australia's Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs.
In fact, India overtook China to become the third largest source of immigrants to Australia in all, after Britain and New Zealand .
“Indian migrants are attracted to Australia for the level of safety here, the weather conditions and also the job opportunities,” Dr Siddalingeswara Orekondy, the president of the United Indian Association, told The Sunday Times.
Doctors and other health-care professionals are also making the move to Australia as India's reputation for producing a talented workforce continues to grow .
Australia's biggest sources of migrants, because of their historical colonial ties, remained Great Britain and New Zealand.
Overall, 131,593 migrants arrived on Australian shores last year – up seven per cent over the previous year.
While the number of migrants from India grew, those coming from China fell from 11,095 to 10,581.
After India and China, the Philippines was the fifth-biggest source of migrants, with 4,871 settlers. This was followed by Asian countries such as Malaysia at No 8 overall with 2,967 and Singapore at No 9 with 2,685 migrants.
The latest figures show that Australia is soaking up migrants at both ends of the skills spectrum as Canberra competes with other developed countries like the United States and Canada for global talent.
Most migrants from Britain, for example, were from higher-skilled jobs such as nurses, building and engineering professionals as well as managers. But a fair number were also blue-collar carpenters, electricians and hairdressers.
Most Indians were computing professionals, followed by sales and service workers, accountants, and engineers.
Macquarie University researchers Dr Selvaraj Velayutham and Dr Amanda Wise told The Sunday Times that Indian migrants were valued because they are English-educated and have skills in areas of shortage, such as IT, engineering and health services.
Among them are Shantanu Chakraborty who moved to Sydney from Mumbai five years ago.
“They do value me (at work) because within two years of joining them they've given me a partnership offer in the firm, which is brilliant,” the 32-year-old IT expert told the BBC .
The political hot potato, however, lies at the lower-skilled end ~ jobs in high demand such as carpenters, chefs, hairdressers and domestic housekeepers.
Critics have charged that the government has created a foreign “guest worker” system for blue-collar professionals by giving them short-term visas ranging from six months to four years.
Opposition leader Kim Beazley has accused the government of allowing foreign migrants to undercut wages and steal jobs from ordinary Australians.
Yet Chakraborty and his wife, and many other Indians like them, plan to stay put.
He said: “I don't think I'm going to go back unless there's something drastic happening on the other side of the world but now I'm here for life.”
Source: Straits Times/ANN
Asian migrants seduced by Australian way of life
30th July 2006
INDIANS are the new Italians. In a changing of the guard, Indian-born people have become the third largest migrant group in Australia, behind the British and New Zealanders, bringing with them skills in everything from engineering to medicine.
They have overtaken traditional source countries such as China, Vietnam, Philippines and Hong Kong. European countries such as Italy and Greece, which played a major part in Australia's postwar population boom, don't even make the top 20.
Of the 10,600 permanent arrivals in May, 10 per cent were Indian, ahead of China (8 per cent) and up 6.6 per cent from the same month last year, figures released by the Bureau of Statistics this month show.
Monash University demographer Bob Birrell said the increase from the subcontinent was primarily due to overseas students successfully applying for permanent residence after graduating from local universities.
Following a large recruitment campaign by the Federal Government body Australian Education International, Indian student numbers have almost tripled since 2002 to 24,495 , making India Australia's second-largest market for international students, after China.
And changes to skilled migration laws, that put more emphasis on English language proficiency, help subcontinental applicants who generally grow up speaking English.
"What's happening is thousands of students come here, complete their courses, then successfully apply for permanent residence while they're still onshore," Dr Birrell said.
"The Government has sought to encourage recruitment of former overseas students as they have reasonable communication skills and are trained to our standards."
Last week Treasurer Peter Costello said the nation's social composition would change unless Australia increased its fertility rate in line with immigration. Government figures show the present mix is about 74 per cent Anglo-Celtic, 19 per cent other European and 4.5 per cent Asian.
But Mr Costello said the low birth rate meant the balance in population was not being tempered, which would lead to the type of "social division" and "violence" being experienced in France, the Netherlands and Denmark.
However, the new wave of Indian immigration has been extremely smooth, bringing benefits with no social problems to date.
IDP Education, a student recruiter owned by 38 Australian universities, conducts education fairs in India. IDP India Country director Henry Lendlie told a conference in Melbourne last month that having Indian students in local institutions would form invaluable links between Australia and the world's second fastest growing economy.
He said India's huge population was a "spectacular" source of skilled professionals in areas such as engineering, medicine, accounting and IT.
"By helping to educate young Indians in various skills and subjects - including that discipline known as the 'Australian way of life' - Australia can help itself by creating a human resource pool of compatible potential immigrants as well as offshore assets for Australian businesses to tap," he said.
Rajwant Singh migrated to Australia six years ago and used his experience in advertising and graphic design to start up the Punjabi-language newspaper Punjab Express in western Sydney, where many of the city's Indian population live.
Mr Singh outsources artwork and page setting to employees in India and said many Indian businesses were similarly outsourcing work.
Mr Singh's company will launch the first local Indian women's magazine next month. Called Saheli, which means friend, it will cover beauty, fashion, entertainment and health.
"Australia has one of the best professional migration policies, and if one person moves, friends and family tend to migrate as well," Mr Singh said.
Restaurateur Satinder Pal Singh Benepal moved to Sydney 20 years ago and his brother and parents have since joined him.
The former accountant opened the Maharaja Palace restaurant at Kirribilli then Baulkham Hills as well as Indian Tucker at St Leonards.
The increase in Indian migration is part of a trend towards Asian ethnic groups in the past three decades.