Migration levels are not an issue this election. Image: Shutterstock
Neither a Labor government nor a Liberal government will seek to increase the number of permanent migrants allowed into Australia as a potential solution to the current shortage of skilled workers if they win this month’s election.
Asked during a National Press Club debate on Wednesday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and his opposition counterpart Jim Chalmers danced around a question about why neither side is campaigning to raise the cap on the permanent migration to Australia.
The annual permanent migration cap was lowered from 190,000 to 160,000 in 2019.
“Skilled migrants play an absolutely vital role in our economy by helping to address some of these labor shortages,” Frydenberg said.
“Whether it’s engineers at mine sites, computer programmers at our telecommunications companies, or people working in our hospitality industry.
“But it’s not just about skilled migrants,” he added, saying there was “no silver bullet” for the lack of workers in many aspects of the economy that the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Philip Lowe linked to soaring inflation in his Tuesday. speech announcing a rise in the central bank’s key interest rate.
Chalmers agreed, saying higher inflows would not solve employers’ problems caused by low levels of unemployment and high demand for workers.
“Bringing people in, even in a sensible way, should never be a substitute for training people as well,” he said.
“Too often in the public debate about skills and migration, people pretend it’s one or the other when in reality, of course, it’s a mix of the two.”
As far as training is concerned, the treasurer and his shadow pointed out the respective policies of their parties.
The Coalition said another term of government will see it finalize a new National Skills Accord for skills and workforce development after a 2020 Productivity Commission review found that the Employers were increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of the existing vocational education and training (VET) system.
Labor wants to pump $1.2 billion into TAFE courses in industries facing skills shortages and has pledged 400,000 free TAFE places if they form government.
The lack of local skills has long been a source of frustration for employers looking to hire IT professionals for innovation and digital transformation projects.
In the last annual report digital pulse report, the Australian Computer Society (ACS) projects that Australia will need at least 60,000 new computer scientists each year, but can only expect 7,000 domestic graduates.
Skilled migration is one way to bridge this gap, but, as Airtasker CEO Tim Fung argued the year before, Australia needs to be an attractive place for tech talent to work and live.
The Global Talent Program was a program designed to attract highly skilled workers who command big salaries and saw 1,140 applications submitted in its first two years.
The government is trying to meet the demand for skilled migrants by shifting available visas from the family stream to the skilled visa stream, thereby increasing the total proportion of skilled migrants allowed to enter the country.
More than 70,000 skilled migrants have come to Australia since borders reopened for skilled workers and students in November, according to Frydenberg.