Government cuts migration program

By: Chris Smith

The Rudd Government will cut the 2008-09 permanent skilled migration program by 14 percent to protect local jobs while ensuring

The Rudd Government will cut the 2008-09 permanent skilled migration program by 14 percent to protect local jobs while ensuring employers can access skilled professionals in industries still experiencing skills shortages.

As has long been the case, the Government can adjust immigration levels according to the economic circumstances of the day and last week Cabinet agreed to cut the permanent skilled migration program in light of the worsening global economic situation.

Clearly, the economic circumstances in Australia have changed as a result of the global financial crisis so it is prudent to reduce this year’s migration intake accordingly.

The changes to the program are:

  • A 14 percent cut in the 2008-09 permanent skilled migration program intake from 133 500 to 115 000.

  • Removing building and manufacturing trades from the Critical Skills List, such as bricklayers, plumbers, welders, carpenters and metal fitters. The list will now comprise mainly health and medical, engineering and IT professions.

These changes follow measures announced in December that resulted in only those migrants sponsored by an employer or in an occupation on the Critical Skills List being granted visas under the permanent skilled migration program. Almost half of the permanent visas granted are to applicants already living and working in Australia.

The Critical Skills List will remain under constant review and the Government will remove occupations from the list if demand for those skills can be satisfied by local labour.

The overwhelming message from business and industry is that Australia still needs to maintain a skilled migration program but one that is more targeted so that migrant workers are meeting skills shortages and not competing with locals for jobs.

There are still skills shortages in some sectors, such as healthcare, and these measures will enable industry to continue to source the skilled professionals they need while protecting local jobs and the wages and conditions of Australian workers.

The Rudd Government remains committed to a strong migration program but will continue to monitor the migration intake and will set the 2009-10 migration program to reflect the economic climate as part of the Budget process.

Skilled migration plays a crucial role in stimulating the economy and combined with the Government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan, will help Australia come out of the global economic downturn.

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