A leading economic think tank has said Australia’s migration agenda must be overhauled imminently to better attract skilled migrants to help the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the country’s economy is tracking better than most of the world, the Economic Development Committee of Australia (CEDA) believes that the runoff of migration flows exposes skills shortages in many crucial sectors.
Before a joint parliamentary committee, CEDA chief economist Jarrod Ball said Australia would lose out to countries like Canada that implement “aggressive” migration policies to attract the most skilled migrants.
“The rapid slowdown in migration caused by COVID provides an opportunity to take stock of the current system and recalibrate it for the future,” Ball said in his opening speech.
“Our national unemployment rate remains high from pre-COVID levels, but there are pockets of skills shortages.”
Mr Ball said there was a significant shortage of skilled workers in sectors such as health, tourism, hospitality and trades.
CEDA warns that a migration system that does not respond well to changing demand would make Australia less competitive in the global job market and hamper its ability to attract talented workers from abroad.
Mr Ball noted that Australia’s “rigid” migration system was not effective in defining the skills needed for emerging sectors, such as data and technology.
“Professions like data scientist have not been easy to fit into our rigid skill (system) classifications, so we need to find ways to make sure we keep pace,” he says.
The think tank offers a system based on the assessment of individual merits and an online job platform to speed up applications.
“A number of other jurisdictions are focusing on ensuring that there is a job on the other side,” Mr. Ball said.
“(Our proposal) interacting migrants with employers will likely lead to better employment outcomes once here in Australia.”
CEDA, in its brief, also noted that the government needs to better align temporary migration of skills with education and training systems.
Global consultancy group Ernst and Young (EY) also faced the joint committee, saying Australia faces a serious skills shortage in many sectors.
A survey conducted by the group found that 58% of respondents said their company had qualified vacancies that could not be filled by local workers.
“The resumption of a targeted migration of skills, including global talent, at scale is critical to economic recovery and to building Australia’s longer-term innovation economy,” EY said in its brief. .
EY also pointed out that the migration program is highly bureaucratic and responds to the needs of businesses and the economy.
The large consulting firm believes that the national skills migration program should be simplified.