Australian businesses urge priority return of skilled workers

Australian businesses urge priority return of skilled workers

Australian businesses urge priority return of skilled workers

Australian business leaders have urged the country’s government to allow skilled migrants to return and aid businesses suffering from skills shortages.

This latest urge from Australian business leaders comes following the government’s announcement – which failed to mention a date – of letting skilled migrants return to Australia as a priority group.

Earlier this month, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that returning Australians would get the first priority, with double vaccinated skilled migrants and international students next on the priority list of people arriving in Australia.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) chief executive Andrew McKellar said that while the federal government’s announcement of reopening Australian borders was helpful, it still failed to deliver a date of when international travel might be resumed, which left Australian businesses without clear answers.

He described skills shortages in Australia as ‘crippling’ for small business owners, who are left with minimal options to address the uncertainty surrounding their operations.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox also said that skills shortages in Australia would intensify once Australian States and Territories officially come out of lockdowns.

Such a scenario would warrant an immediate return to pre-pandemic levels of skilled migration, Mr Willox said.

He also urged the Australian government to reopen international borders as soon as possible, saying that there is “no time to waste” for Australia to resume skilled migration to the country.

In the 2020-21 migration year, Australia granted 79,620 permanent residency visas in the skilled category – down from 109,713 grants in 2018-19 and well below the 128,000 skilled visas given to applicants in 2016.

Moreover, in August, an Australian parliamentary committee said that around 500,000 migrants had left the country since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with another 77,000 migrants set to depart in this financial year.

This led to the committee concluding that Australia needs to swiftly overhaul its existing migration system by introducing more pathways to Australian PR for migrants, better lists for industries in need of employing skilled migrants, and greater opportunities for talented international students to remain in Australia following their studies.

Elsewhere, Deloitte Access Economics partner Chris Richardson said that fears regarding skilled migrants in Australia taking jobs or lowering wages were misplaced, as those migrants would spend money in the Australian economy, create new jobs, and increase wages over the long term.