Skilled workers prioritised amid backlog of almost one million visa applications
The Department of Home Affairs has redirected resources and brought on more staff to address the visa gridlock, which has made wait times for applicants worse.
AdvertisementBut Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has now confirmed its plan will prioritise skilled applicants from offshore with a focus on health, education and aged care.“The real priority for me is what we can do within the constraints of the system to quickly work through that backlog,” she told ABC Radio on Wednesday.
“The change is prioritising people who are offshore who are wanting to come here to work and working through those applications as quickly as we can.”
It’s a drop in the ocean, when we are talking about a backlog that is close to a millionNew government figures have revealed, that the current visa backlog is 961,016 visa applications across all categories with some 560,187 lodged by people outside Australia.
This includes 57,906 skilled workers seeking permanent visas. Another 13,806 offshore visa applicants are seeking temporary visas.
“Our immigration program is a sacred nation-building exercise that we need to really think about and have a good community conversation about and design it carefully," she said.
“Don’t get on a boat and think you are going to be able to make a life in Australia - you will be turned back.”
The migration debateThe jobs summit will bring together unions, employers, civil society groups and representatives of governments with migration to be a key discussion point.Professor Boucher said it was important to find a middle ground in the debate warning “otherwise it can inflame xenophobic tendencies”.“It’s not just about the size,” she said."A more fine-grained picture and raising awareness about the migration program - how important it is and also some of the complexities of it can only be beneficial."The permanent migration program was capped at 160,000 per year under the previous Morrison government.But the impact of COVID-19 saw this fall into negative levels for the first time since the post-World War II era.A reopening of the international border on 21 December has witnessed a gradual recovery of migration numbers, but businesses are still waiting months to bring in staff to fill skill shortages.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce has called for the annual migration program to be expanded to 200,000 people to help secure the country’s economic pathway out of the pandemic.
Australia’s unemployment rate fell to 3.5 per cent in June - its lowest levels in 48 years, but despite the strong labour market, skilled shortages remain a challenge.
“[But] a challenge for Australia is how do we make sure that our education system is actually providing the skills to people that our labour market needs."