From visas to jobs: Australia’s migrant intake is increasing. Here’s what it means for workers

The Australian government has announced it will increase its annual migration intake by 35,000 places and invest $36 million into addressing lengthy visa backlogs.
The announcement came on day two of the government’s Jobs and Skills Summit, which has been dominated by Australia’s labour shortage and the potential for migrant workers, who have largely left or avoided the country due to the pandemic, to help fill needed jobs.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia’s reliance on workers with temporary visas had made the workforce “vulnerable” and there was a “general consensus” to promote permanent migration pathways for workers.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil relayed those comments in a formal announcement, pledging the migration cap will rise from 160,00 to 195,000.

Ms O’Neil said Labor’s priority is to move away from focusing on short-term migrants “toward permanency, citizenship and nation building”.

Who will this affect?

The focus is on changing the make-up of the workforce to consist of more permanent migrant workers, rather than temporary ones. This means the government will make pathways for workers on temporary visas to stay longer, or transition to permanent visas.
International students will benefit, with graduates of Australian universities being allowed to work in Australia for longer.
According to education minister Jason Clare, will be able to stay in Australia two years longer.
Temporary working visa holders will also have eased restrictions, allowing them to work in the country for longer.
People waiting for their visas to be processed, or who have loved ones who are, will also be affected by the announcement, with Immigration Minister Andrew Giles committing $36 million to help better resource visa processing.
Mr Giles said there are 900,000 visas in the current backlog, but the government’s “repair work is well underway”.

He said since winning the federal election, Labor has been reducing the visa processing times.

“The median number of days it takes for a person coming to Australia on a temporary skilled visa is down, from 53 days in May, to 42 days in July,” Mr Giles said on Friday.
“And the median time taken to approve new businesses for sponsorship has halved, from 37 days to 18.”

He said that staff are working “regular overtime” to process visas and the new investment will “surge staff capacity by 500 people for the next nine months”.

When will it come into effect?

The increased migration cap is an amendment to the 2022/23 financial year, and will come into effect immediately.
The increased investment into visa processing resources will be included in the October budget papers.

SBS News has contacted Mr Giles’ office for confirmation on whether the hiring of staff can start immediately.

Australia’s skills shortage: Jobs and visa opportunities

Last month, the federal government announced construction managers, nurses and chefs are among just some of over the next five years in Australia.
Next year, more than two-thirds of the migrants expected to arrive in Australia will be from seven of the various skilled visas available.
The government will shift permanent visa allocations from an even split between family and skilled migrants, to a greater focus on workers.

The government’s Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List lists 44 occupations, including:

  • Construction managers
  • Civil engineering professionals
  • General Practitioners
  • Registered nurses
  • ICT (information and communications technology) business and systems analysts
  • Software and applications programmers
  • Electrical engineers
  • Chefs
  • Midwives
  • Veterinarians
  • Surveyors

‘Not just numbers’

The Migrant Workers Centre says that while it welcomes the government’s plans to increase the amount of migrant workers in Australia, their working conditions and rights must also form part of the discussion.
CEO of the centre, Matt Kunkel, says temporary visas have left many migrants in limbo, and in some cases exploited.
“For too long, Australia’s temporary migration system has condemned migrants to living in limbo, in an endless cycle of temporary visas with limited workplace protections,” he said.
He says migrant workers should feel safe to speak up about unfair conditions.
“All workers must feel confident to raise issues of workplace exploitation. Whistle-blower protections are essential to ensure migrants are not forced to choose between defending their workplace rights and their ability to remain in the country,” he said.

“Our migration system is more than just adjusting intake numbers. We must centre and support the people coming to our shores and provide the certainty to build their lives and be full partners in our communities.”

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