Immigration changes ‘the first step’ to addressing labour woes

Australia’s hospitality industry has long understood the difficulties and obstacles the country’s migration system throws at workers and businesses, making it difficult to find and keep good staff from overseas.

Now, following a Federal review of the migration system many of Australia’s visa categories will be up for change and there will be an immediate increase in the minimum wage threshold for skilled workers.

The review suggested 38 recommendations to the migration system that would tackle the perceived issue of ‘permanent temporary migration’, as highlighted in the report’s executive summary.

“While we have long prided ourselves on the focus on permanent residence in our migration program, we now have more than 1.8 million temporary migrants living in Australia with the legal ability to participate in our labour market. They are working in all parts of our economy, in some cases supporting key sectors and the delivery of critical services,” the report reads.

“Many of these people wish to make Australia home but too often face tangled and lengthy pathways to permanent residence. They deserve clarity about their opportunities to remain. It is not in Australia’s national interest to maintain a large proportion of temporary entrants with no pathway to citizenship as it undermines our democratic resilience and social cohesion.”

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil welcomed the review’s outcomes highlighting that the current system was not relevant to the modern working world.

“What’s really important to me is that we’ve got these big national problems facing our country and we’re not getting the right people here through the migration system to help us address them,” Minister O’Neil told the National Press Club.

The review also found the need to reduce red tape was important and Australian Hotels Association CEO Stephen Ferguson said this and other changes announced by the minister were “the first steps towards addressing current and future skilled labour needs”.

He added: “The hospitality and accommodation sectors have been crying out for reform in this sector for years.

“Our sector is desperate for workers – yes, we all want to hire Australians first, but there are simply not enough people to do the jobs. Migration is the only way to fill tens of thousands of positions, especially in the regions.

“As the Minister herself said, the current system is ‘an achingly slow process’ which is ‘weighed down by rules, forms and bureaucracy’ and we support her stance.”

The AHA, and other industry associations, noted the increase of the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT – the minimum a job’s salary must be worth for employers to be able to sponsor a migration) to $70,000, which will come into effect in on 1 July. The organisations believe this increase will ensure “skilled overseas workers are being paid in accordance with today’s market salary levels.”

Nevertheless, the AHA CEO will scrutinise how this new threshold is implemented for those in the hospitality industry.

“We will be watching carefully to ensure regional and rural businesses especially don’t have any added disadvantage during the implementation of TISMIT,” Ferguson concluded.

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