Even with the vaccination rollout gaining momentum – 400K Australians were vaccinated last week – Australia’s borders will remain closed until the middle of 2022 and migration planning levels will remain unchanged.
In his Budget presentation last night, Frydenberg said: “Australia’s effective management of COVID makes us an even more attractive place for the best and brightest from around the world. To take advantage of this, we are streamlining visas to target highly-skilled individuals when circumstances allow.”
These planning levels include 79,600 skill and 77,300 family stream places.
“Family and Skilled stream places will be maintained at their 2020-21 planning levels, with a continued focus on onshore visa applicants, including reducing the onshore Partner visa pipeline,” the Budget document states.
While the hospitality industry may have welcomed the Budget’s lift of the cap to hours international students may work – previously set at forty hours per fortnight – there are concerns about the continuing shortfall in skilled migrant workers.
Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO, Michael Johnson said the lifting of the cap on international student visas would help alleviate the worker shortage but that it is a short term solution.
“The streamlining of visa requirements to permit student visa holders to work more than 40 hours a fortnight announced in the Federal Budget will make a real difference in the short term.
“In the long term, TAA are pushing for cooks and chefs to be added to the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List. This would allow them pathways to permanent residency.
“We are also working with TAFE on ways to increase the amount of young people choosing our industry. In the end, a home-grown talent pool will be the best way to ensure our industry has the staff we need to thrive.”
Indeed, the Budget does allocate an extra $1.5 billion to the successful JobTrainer scheme so employers can hire 100,000 apprentices and trainees in the next year and an extra $2.7 billion will be spent over four years to expand the government’s Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidies, which reimburse employers for the wages of new apprentices and trainees by up to 50%.
Employment Minister Stuart Robert said, “This additional $1.5 billion investment will support the employment of newly commencing apprentices and trainees, assisting school leavers and job seekers during the peak hiring period for key industries.
“This budget is all about building the workforce Australia needs today and tomorrow through putting in place programs to upskill Australians so they can achieve their aspirations and realise their potential as well as getting government to work for business – not the other way around.”
In the budget analysis on ABC Television, Jeremy Fernandez interviewed pub owner Lynne Armenti. Armenti owns and runs the family pub in regional Western Australia. Currently operating with only one cook, she said that her business urgently needs skilled migrant workers and wants the government to find a way to bring skilled migrant workers into Australia in a COVID safe way.
She said, “We have been suffering since 2020 before COVID. And we need to implement something now…You can get beer anywhere, you can’t get food anywhere.”
But with no allocation in the budget for mass quarantining facilities, it is unlikely that skilled migrants from India and China will be arriving to fill the immediate gap in the hospitality employment shortfall any time soon.
Photo thanks to Australia Chef Migration