Hairdressers out as migrant skills list gets a trim
By Paul Maley
The Australian, May 17, 2010
The Rudd government has cut by more than half the number of prized occupations and professions listed in the skilled migration program.
In a major rationalisation, Immigration Minister Chris Evans will today unveil a new list of just 181 skills, professions and occupations – down from the 400 cited in the old list.
Butter makers, journalists, script editors, fashion designers, intelligence officers, cooks and hairdressers are among those culled. But other, more specialised, professions – such as pharmacists – have also been dumped.
Senator Evans said the new list was part of an ongoing attempt by the government to decouple the link between education and immigration.
'Australia's migration program cannot be determined by the courses studied by international students,' he said in a media release yesterday.
Senator Evans said that of the 41,000 general skilled visas granted in 2007-08, more than 5000 went to cooks and hairdressers, three-quarters of whom had studied in Australia.
The new list was developed by Skills Australia, an independent body, and will be updated annually.
Senator Evans said the new list was developed in consultation with industry groups and was focused on those skills required in the medium to long term.
He said the onus remained on training Australian workers to fill skills gaps.
The new leaner skills list is likely to draw a fiery response from the parts of the education sector specialising in offering cheap vocational courses to foreign students whose principal goal is the acquiring of Australian residency.
Yesterday, Senator Evans acknowledged the new list may dash the hopes of some foreign students. 'The government recognises the proposed changes would affect some overseas students currently in Australia intending to apply for permanent residence,' he said.
In February, he announced that 20,000 prospective migrants who applied before a tightening of the rules in September would have their applications rejected and their fees refunded.
Mindful of the impact on what has become a highly lucrative industry, Senator Evans said international students with much-needed skills would still be welcome.
'But we . . . will no longer accept the thousands of cooks and hairdressers who applied under the guidelines established by the Howard government.'