Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Skilled Migrants Not The Solution To Skills Crisis

The citizenship test is a waste of time. Almost everyone who sits the test will pass it, although immigrants who come to Australia on humanitarian grounds are less likely to pass than those in the family stream, who in turn are less likely to pass than skilled migration candidates. All up, 95% of applicants pass the test on their first or subsequent attempt. And yet, the government now plans to review the test to make it even easier.

At the same time it has been revealed that the skilled migration program is actually contributing to the skills shortage rather than reducing it. According to research done at Monash University, about 213000 people came to Australia as skilled migrants between 2001 and 2006. Of those, almost three quarters came from non-English speaking countries, and of those, fewer than 30% found work in their area of expertise.

Many of these were international students who attended Australian Universities, so you would think they would be appropriately qualified to find employment. However, it seems that in many cases their opportunities are limited by a perception of communications difficulties. These people then wind up working in lower skilled administration or sales jobs.

While the shortage of skilled workers is a pressing challenge, it seems that the importation of workers hasn’t really plugged the gap. That demonstrates once again how important it is that we as a nation invest more wholeheartedly in our own education and training.

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