Does migration policy address South Australia’s triple threat?
The South Australian economy faces a triple challenge of an ageing population and labour force, regional depopulation and a disproportionate reliance on owner managers which are, on average, older. In combination, this triple threat, accentuates skill and general labour shortages, particularly in regional South Australia.
Today, the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies released a Report investigating the ‘The potential benefits of reforming migration policies to address South Australia’s needs’. The Report examines the suitability of the Australian migration system, and recent changes, in meeting the needs of South Australian businesses.
Although the Commonwealth Government recently made changes to the skilled migration programs, designed to address perceived over / inappropriate use of skilled visas, the Report found that these changes do not address the concerns raised by South Australian employers in the study. In many cases, the announced changes exacerbate the existing situation, where employers are not always able to access employees with the skills they require.
1. A single level for the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) makes related visas much less useful in the lower wage regions that cover most of South Australia.
2. Regional SA employers identified skills gaps for occupations that require Certificate III or equivalent. Such occupations are not typically eligible for skilled worker visas.
3. The Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP) visa could enable retiring SA business owners to sell to suitable migrants, however, the typical value of SA small and medium enterprises is generally lower than the BIIP investment value, making most of them ineligible for this program.
4. Those SA businesses that sponsor a 457 visa holder to fill skill shortages will be forced to pay a training levy. This increases costs for SMEs (with a turnover of less than $10 million per annum) by $1,200 per sponsored visa holder.
“Unfortunately, the current migration system does not support South Australian businesses, particularly in regional areas,” says Mark Glazbrook, CEO of Migration Solutions. His was one of ten businesses, associations and institutes from both South Australia and nationally, who came together to support the study.
“We know that smaller cities and regional areas have a different cost of living and economy to larger cities,” says Mr Glazbrook, “so applying the same standards across diverse regions makes no sense.”
“The new training levy is particularly worrying. It would not be surprising if funds intended for local upskilling and development initiatives by employers shifted to pay the new training levy,” says Mr Glazbrook. “This is frustrating for businesses, as there is no guarantee that the levy funds will be invested in the region from which it was collected, potentially exacerbating the skills shortage.”
The Report also found that South Australia’s educational institutions currently recruit a larger share of students from countries which are treated as higher risk, under the new Simplified Student Visa Framework. These students must meet stringent evidentiary requirements to demonstrate that they are a genuine temporary entrant and can complete their course. Should this discourage students from applying, and / or result in student visa refusals, then South Australia’s share of international Vocational Education and Training (VET) students (already disproportionately low) may fall further.
This Report, the second in a series of three, follows on from findings in Report 1 that identified the key economic, business development and growth challenges faced by South Australia, in light of the federal immigration policy environment. The final report is due to be released in the coming weeks and will provide migration policy recommendations to address South Australian needs.
SACES Report 2: Areas where the Migration system does not meet South Australia's needs
SACES Report 2: Key findings
Migration Solutions are an Australian immigration agency with a national focus and specialist knowledge across all areas of migration, including corporate and individual applications.
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