30 November 2021

Is there a shortage of skilled workers?

Recently there have been calls for a large increase in the skilled migrant intake as borders reopen. This Briefing Note, (PDF) prepared by Leith van Onselen, Chief Economist at Macrobusiness, examines the evidence for claimed skill shortages and looks at the effects of pre-pandemic immigration policies which were intended to address these shortages. Findings of this analysis include:

  • ‘Skilled’ migrants make up only around half of the skilled stream and 30% of non-humanitarian migration, with most of the remainder being partners and dependent children.
  • Government data show very little evidence of skills shortages.
  • There are more than 670 occupations listed as eligible for a ‘skilled’ visa, but there is no requirement that any of these occupations are actually experiencing a skills shortage.
  • Of the top five occupations granted visas under the skilled stream prior to border closures (accountant, software engineer, registered nurse, developer programmer and cook), not one of these professions was deemed to be in shortage over the five years to 2018.
  • High levels of immigration in the decade pre-COVID-19 contributed to stagnant incomes growth, lower incomes and employment prospects for both skilled and unskilled Australians, and detracted from the living standards of many Australian working families.
  • Despite decades of strong skilled migration, whereby literally millions of foreign workers were imported into Australia, industry and the federal government continue to make identical claims about chronic skills shortages.
  • Allowing the mass importation of foreign workers circumvents the ordinary functioning of the labour market by enabling employers to source cheaper foreign workers in lieu of raising wages, as well as abrogating the need for training.

Read the full Briefing Note here. (PDF)

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