Victoria Plans To Beat The Others To Skilled Migrants

Victoria plans to beat the others to skilled migrants

Josh Gordon and Brendan Nicholson
The Age
October 9, 2007

VICTORIA is preparing to launch a raid to snatch more skilled migrants from other states in a bid to plug labour shortages and boost its economy.

Premier John Brumby will today announce a plan to snare at least 28.5 per cent of Australia's skilled and business migrant intake by 2011, compared with the current 25 per cent minimum. That could mean thousands of extra citizens over the next four years.

In an opening address to the International Metropolis Conference in Melbourne today, Mr Brumby will argue that the social benefits of migration have far outweighed the costs, particularly in the longer term.

The move follows fierce debate over the Federal Government's decision to stop all African migration until at least July next year.

Figures from the Bureau of Statistics showed Victoria's population swelled by a near record 74,431 over the year to the end of March, with 58 per cent of the increase due to overseas migration.

The new strategy will be underpinned by two new offices in Britain and India aimed at marketing Victoria's career, business and lifestyle opportunities, and a committee of representatives from business and government to provide advice.

Amid growing concern about the impact of on urban congestion, housing affordability and water security, the focus will be on directing new arrivals to regional areas. The Minister for Skills and Workforce Participation, Jacinta Allan, said many businesses in regional areas had found it difficult to recruit skilled workers after strong growth.

Mr Brumby will acknowledge that migration needs to be accompanied by support services, arguing that simply attracting new arrivals is only part of the solution.

In a paper released yesterday, Bob Birrell and Daniel Edwards, of the centre for population and urban research, at Monash University, argue that migrants are missing out on good jobs, even though there is strong demand for their talents and after they have been selected and given visas under a Government program set up to bring in skilled workers.

The paper argues that skilled migrants from non-English-speaking countries have trouble getting work in their professions in Australia, and are paid much less than other Australians once they do. Many earn as little as $20,800 a year.

The paper said the Federal Government had tried to cover deficiencies in its domestic skilled training programs by hugely boosting the skilled migrant intake. This had proved a partial solution at best, the authors said.

They said accreditation standards set by those selecting immigrants may be much lower than the expectations of employers. That made employers concerned and could lead to discrimination against those from non English-speaking backgrounds.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews said last night the paper's finding were not surprising.

She said that while those with the right qualifications could work as skilled professionals, they would need better English for the higher-paid jobs.

The authors said the Government had turned on the immigration tap in the hope that skilled migrants would help fill the labour shortages that opened up with the economic boom, and the number of migrants increased significantly between 2001 and 2006.

In 2005-06, Victoria attracted a record 24,565 skilled and business migrants, representing 26.8 per cent of the national total, slightly higher than the state's 25 per cent population share.


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