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Australia launches ‘Skills in Demand’ visa to boost SME workforce

Good news for small businesses in Australia: the government has introduced the “Skills in Demand” visa to address critical job roles and boost worker mobility within the sector. This move is part of the much-anticipated Migration Strategy, outlining a comprehensive vision for the country’s migration system.

As a replacement for the Temporary Skills Shortage (Subclass 482) visa, the “Skills in Demand” visa offers three specific pathways aimed at attracting temporary skilled migrants essential for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and national productivity:

  1. Specialist Skills Pathway: Geared towards highly-skilled migrants vital to SMEs, this stream requires guaranteed annual earnings of at least AUD 135,000, exceeding the income of Australian workers in the same occupation. Eligibility covers all occupations, except for trades workers, machinery operators, drivers, and laborers.
  2. Core Skills Pathway: Targeting occupations facing shortages, applicants must align with the new Core Skills Occupation list and earn at least the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (“TSMIT”).
  3. Essential Skills Pathway: Still in development, this pathway will focus on workers with essential skills earning below AUD 70,000.

Key features of the Skills in Demand visa for SMEs include:

  • A 4-year validity period, offering clear pathways to permanent residence.
  • Unique flexibility allowing workers to change employers during the visa’s validity, with a 180-day period to find another sponsor while still being able to work.
  • Exploration of employer models to cover charges and fees, such as the Skilling Australia Fund, to ease the burden of hiring foreign workers.
  • Exploring opportunities to modernize the accredited sponsor pathway, facilitating streamlined access to migrant workers for approved sponsors.
  • Streamlined visa processing, with a service standard of 7 days on average for the Specialist Skills pathway and 21 days for the other streams.

Associate Professors Stephen Clibborn and Chris F Wright, advocating for change, proposed a ‘mobility visa’ as an alternative to the Temporary Skill Shortage visa in their joint submission to the Parkinson Review of the Migration System. Minister O’Neil, in the Migration Strategy released today, recognized and endorsed this proposal, stating, “The establishment of the new Skills in Demand visa reflects an encouraging, evidence-based approach to migration policy, as proposed by Associate Professors Clibborn and Wright.”

Expressing concerns about the impact of previous temporary migration policies on migrant workers, Associate Professor Wright highlighted, “Australia’s temporary migration policies have contributed to the exploitation of migrant workers and inefficient provision of labor to businesses, contrary to the public interest.” He continued, emphasizing the need for change, “Migrant workers should have mobility to switch employers, a pathway to permanent residency, better protection of their workplace rights, and independent verification of skill shortages to ensure migration addresses genuine labor market needs.”

The researchers believe that the new Skills in Demand visa embodies these principles, presenting a “triple-win” scenario with anticipated positive outcomes for workers, businesses, and the country as a whole. Associate Professor Clibborn further explained, “Extending the period for temporary skilled workers to find an alternative sponsor will enable them to leave unfavorable employers more easily. This measure aims to reduce the risks of underpayment and exploitation of migrant workers, ultimately benefiting the entire workforce.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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