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Boost to immigration levels could solve skills shortages

16 January, 2014

The Australian Industry Group has proposed an increase in Australia's immigration intake from 190,000 this year to 220,000 for 2014-15 financial year with an emphasis on skilled migration in order to meet current and future skills shortages.

In a submission to the federal government on the size of the immigration program to be set in the May budget, Ai Group chief executive, Innes Willox said:  "This proposed increase takes into account the proven benefits to the economy of a strong migration program. 

"An increase in migrant numbers supports positive growth in our population and especially in our adult workforce, which is important due to relatively low rates of natural population growth.

"A higher skilled migration intake is appropriate at present due to Australia's historically low (albeit growing) unemployment rates; the deepening impacts of our ageing workforce (with 9 per cent of all Australian employees now aged 60 or over and 17 per cent aged 55 or over); and persistent skill shortages in key growth industries including mining services, engineering, infrastructure and health services."

Willox continues: "With early indicators suggesting a positive upturn in national housing market activity, we expect the residential and commercial construction cycles will pick up significantly from 2014-15  which will in turn lead to further skilled trade shortages. This will be exacerbated by the flow of construction workers into the mining sector and reduced trades apprenticeship numbers in recent years.

"In particular, the flow of skilled workers into the mining industry from construction and industrial sectors will continue as mining moves from its current investment and expansion phase into a very strong period of growth in output and exports.

"These skills shortages and labour hire difficulties were seen clearly in recent Ai Group construction sector surveys. During the six months leading into September 2013, 67.7 per cent of respondents reported either major or moderate difficulty in the recruitment of skilled labour (up from 65.7 per cent six months ago). The sourcing of sub-contractors was also a dominant supply constraint with 47.1 per cent citing major or moderate difficulty (up from 43.8 per cent).

"The skill shortages situation is even more serious in relation to occupations requiring science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills. The occupations where there are shortages due to low STEM levels, as illustrated by a recent Ai Group report: technicians and trade workers (41 per cent), professional (26.6 per cent) and managers (26.3 per cent). This is deeply concerning considering the office of the chief scientist recently reported that 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations require STEM skills and knowledge.

"While up-skilling our current workforce remains a priority, a larger skilled migration program will be necessary to manage the current situation and to assist in smoothing the path to future growth across the economy," he said.

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Ricos | Friday, January 17, 2014, 11:27 AM
Increase skilled imigration so they can pay workers peanuts, with all the manufacturing jobs gone and unemployment on the rise we may need to think about jobs for those already living here or up skilling these workers.
Peter | Friday, January 17, 2014, 1:17 PM
This is a load of tripe. There is not skills shortages for engineers in Australia. I am an engineer with 20 years experience, in the tope 20% on sills and ability, yet can't get a job in Australia. I am one of thousands of engineers out of work now. What a load of crap the The Australian Industry Group is shovelling here.
Phil | Friday, January 17, 2014, 1:29 PM
With 700,000+ people out of work the last thing we need is more migrants,lets fix up the system to get more people on the shop floor and dont blame the unions for manufacturers moving we need high wages to cover the cost of living
Ken Goldsmith | Friday, January 17, 2014, 1:33 PM
""A higher skilled migration intake is appropriate at present due to Australia's historically low (albeit growing) unemployment rates;" Was it not 32,000 lost full time jobs last year? "With early indicators suggesting a positive upturn in national housing market activity, we expect the residential and commercial construction cycles will pick up.." From the point of view of the Economy, housing construction is a loss, i.e. a negative, especially now that almost every item of building materials, furnishings and appliances is imported. We are building houses for immigrants who will generally remain unemployed. " "In particular, the flow of skilled workers into the mining industry from construction and industrial sectors will continue as mining moves from its current investment and expansion phase into a very strong period of growth in output and exports" Even I know that the "investment and expansion phase" is the peak employment period in mining. "This is deeply concerning considering the office of the chief scientist recently". Chief scientist "it will never rain again" Flim-Flam Flannery? Well, it MUST be right, then.
KC | Friday, January 17, 2014, 1:55 PM
It would certainly improve "productivity". Bring in all those skilled workers on a 457 Visa. Don't recognise their qualifications and then employ them in their capacity at less than half the going rates and when their is no further need for them send them back to were they came from. The tax payer will pick up the bill by paying the local unemployed the dole.
Ron | Friday, January 17, 2014, 2:06 PM
More spin by the AIG who are being led by the the noisy minority of lazy members. Now that the 457 visa loophole is being finally tightened, the next step for these particular employers is to demand more migrants. No training, low pay and the 'threat' of being sent back makes for cheap labour. Why is the Federal Government listening when they (us taxpayers) will be paying for the dole for so many people who are actually quite prepared to be trained in other areas.
Rob | Friday, January 17, 2014, 9:28 PM
Will Industry Search be passing on all of this feedback to the AIG? Innes Willox is a lapdog of the major employers (finance & mining), not the everyday manufacturing employers.
Walter | Monday, January 20, 2014, 12:15 PM
Which kind of skilled workers will it be, taxi drivers, truck drivers as recently suggested? Or do we get more POMs who only want to reside at the coast and have no intention to go in remote areas? This really should be given a lot more thought and as mentioned by others all the car industry will be gone in the near future, use those workers before bringing in more "skilled" workers.
Walter Borell | Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 1:28 PM
I would suggest retraining the workers from Ford, Holden & Toyota plus thousands of unemployed we have already, stop bringing in more people which might end up without a job anyway. Cut immigration down for a few years instead of increasing the intake. Not sure where those forecast figures came from but they don't look right to me.