Australia’s skilled migration program is a giant fraud

By Leith van Onselen

Monday’s ABC Q&A Program featured Dr Jay Song, a supposed “migration policy expert” and recent migrant from Korea, who repeatedly spun the lie that Australia’s 130,000 strong skilled migration program is delivering fantastic outcomes for the nation.

Below are some highlights of Dr Song’s testimony:

When you look at the data, 60% of those permanent migrants are actually skilled migrants who are contributing to the economy and society and the diversity in the community…

I mean, Australia has done a fantastic policy on migration management. I mean, it’s a very well-designed policy and also a well-managed one, ‘cause it’s targeting the skills and the qualifications they have, and then they choose very carefully who can contribute, who can come here and contribute to the economy.

…you need to have skills and qualifications in the degrees or other technical capabilities… they also come here and pay huge tax. And the average income among these skilled migrants is actually $5,000 more than the average Australian taxpayer.

…they come in, most of them, 60% of them, as I said, at the beginning of my conversation, are skilled migrants. And they are regularly, the occupation list is regularly updated by the Department of Industry and together with the Department of… used to be Immigration and Border Protection, now it’s the Home Office, so they are doing a good job to keep checking the Australian businesses who need skills shortages in certain industries. We still need those skilled migrants who can contribute to our society…

Not even 24 hours later, Dr Song’s arguments were blown out of the water by Dr Bob Birrell from the Australian Population Research Institute, whose latest report based on 2016 Census data revealed that most recently arrived skilled migrants (i.e. arrived between 2011 and 2016) cannot find professional jobs, with only 24% of skilled migrants from Non-English-Speaking-Countries (who comprise 84% of the total skilled migrant intake) employed as professionals as of 2016, compared with 50% of skilled migrants from Main English-Speaking-Countries and 58% of the same aged Australian-born graduates:

These results accord with a recent survey from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, which found that 53% of skilled migrants in Western Australia said they are working in lower skilled jobs than before they arrived, with underemployment also rife:

The Productivity Commission’s (PC) recent Migrant Intake Australia report also explicitly stated that around half of the skilled steam includes the family members of skilled migrants, with around 70% of Australia’s total permanent migrant intake not actually ‘skilled’:

…within the skill stream, about half of the visas granted were for ‘secondary applicants’ — partners (who may or may not be skilled) and dependent children… Therefore, while the skill stream has increased relative to the family stream, family immigrants from the skill and family stream still make up about 70 per cent of the Migration Programme (figure 2.8)…

Primary applicants tend to have a better fiscal outcome than secondary applicants — the current system does not consider the age or skills of secondary applicants as part of the criteria for granting permanent skill visas…

The PC also showed that while primary skilled migrants have marginally better labour market outcomes than the Australian born population in terms of median incomes, labour force participation, and unemployment rates, secondary skilled visas, and indeed all other forms of migrants, have much worse outcomes:


In a similar vein, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) latest Characteristics of Recent Migrants report, released in June 2017, revealed that migrants have generally worse labour market outcomes than the Australian born population, with recent migrants and temporary residents having an unemployment rate of 7.4% versus 5.4% for the Australian born population, and lower labour force participation (69.8%) than the Australian born population (70.2%):

Dr Song’s claim that skilled migrants earn more than your typical Australian is superficially correct, and confirmed by the ABS’ Personal Income of Migrants, Australia, 2013-14, which revealed that permanent migrants reported higher average incomes ($48,400) than the median employee income for all Australian taxpayers ($45,700):

The median Employee income of migrant taxpayers in 2013-14 was $48,400. This represented a 1.0% increase in real terms on median Employee income in 2012-13.

The median Employee income of migrant taxpayers was higher than the median Employee income for all Australian taxpayers ($45,700).

However, this is misleading because the “median Employee income for all Australian taxpayers ($45,700)” includes every employee in the country – such as young uni students working at Coles, Kmart or Maccas, mums working part-time, etc – which obviously pulls the national median income down.

It’s fair to assume that most migrants are not granted permanent residency so that they can pack shelves at Coles or work at 7Eleven. Rather, those in the ‘skilled’ stream at least, which makes up the overwhelming majority of permanent migrants, are expected to be working at high capacity. In this regard, I am surprised that their median earnings were only $52,892 in 2013-14, which seems pathetically low.

A fairer ‘like-for-like’ comparison of the productivity of migrants requires them to be compared against local workers of similar composition. Again, as Dr Birrell showed in the first table above, so-called ‘skilled’ migrants have terrible employment outcomes when compared against locals with similar qualifications.

Finally, the below segment from yesterday’s ABC Radio highlights the absurdity of Australia’s ‘skilled’ migration program:

According to this report, skilled migrants have grown increasingly frustrated at not being able to gain work in Australia despite leaving their homelands to fill so-called ‘skills shortages’. Accordingly, they are now demanding that taxpayers provide government-sponsored internships to help skilled migrants gain local experience, and a chance to work in their chosen field.

The below testimony from the CEO of the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia highlights the absurdity of this situation. She says that despite being well qualified on paper, many skilled migrants get knocked back because they lack local experience:

“I’d say the majority of them [skilled migrants] will find difficulty getting work in their chosen area…

It’s heartbreaking because they pin their hopes and dreams on when they come across to Australia…”

So why do we have a skilled intake again? To lengthen the dole queue? To rob developing nations of their skilled workers? And how exactly is the 130,000 strong skilled migrant program alleviating so-called skills shortages?

Australia’s skilled migration program is one giant fraud that is failing miserably to meet its original intent.

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Unconventional Economist


  1. Australia’s skilled migration program is one giant fraud that is failing miserably to meet its original intent.

    you mean its original stated intent, what they claimed it was for. it’s achieving its real intent – the demographic inundation of australia for the purposes of padding the labour market, superheating consumer demand, juicing asset prices.

    • Yep.

      This whole thing is a$$-backwards. It’s the 21st century and it’s routine to interview people for jobs by video conference.

      Rather than bringin in 100,000 people a year to look for jobs here, Let’s have these “skilled” people interviewed by video conference while they are still in their home countries. We don’t need them running around here to look for jobs. It’s not like they are going to physically knock on doors to find these jobs, is it? All the jobs are advertised on the internet, anyhow … at least the above-board ones.

      …Then, if hey get a job and have a signed job contract (which meets strict minimum salary conditions (1.2x local wages, say; this can be easily tested by someone external), they get a visa to come to Australia.

      Maybe Malcolms deadbeat-Innovation Revolution can help people learn how to use VC facilities (ie install Skype or Jabber or ICQ).

      • What the Gov will Do is outsource immigration, similar to Cba using brokers to do their mortgage lending, then the fraud can continue,..and it’s outsourced or someone else’s issue ..dodgy 101, being going on for decades. Might even allow some of the mates of Government to make money! What a perfect situation

  2. yep she has been here for 2 seconds and is now an expert on australian migration and telling us what is best for us

    maybe i should go to korea and give them advice about accepting immigrants…now now, you know korea isnt just for koreans, its for everyone in the world to come to korea to make their home in one big happy family!!

    • “You know what to say in the upcoming Q & A program, right? We need strong presence from the advocating side of the issue and you will be our co-star with Jane. Just watch out for that Bob fellow – he deviated so much from our lines that we had to cut many scenes from the 4 corners program in the last minute – damn that we can’t cancel his appearance in the Q & A now that it has been announced…. Oh, by the way, you know that your visa could still be cancelled?”

      • Nice find. So she’s actually a lecturer from Melbourne Uni now, ah? Conflict of interest no?

        Dr Song, remind us again on how many billion Uni’s like yours make from the International Student rort each year?????

      • Director, Migration and Border Policy
        Lowy Institute for International Policy
        January 2016 – June 2017 (1 year 6 months)
        Managing a migration and border policy project, funded by the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, focusing on international protection regime and economic migration.

        No interest in the status quo at all.

    • On Q&A she also said Australia is a physically large country, like the USA, and can support more people. Then another panellist made her aware that the majority of the country is desert and water security is a massive issue. She looked blanked-faced …

      • Should send her and her precious skilled immigrants to the middle of the Simpson desert, if she’s so convinced by the size of the continent.

        I’m actually surprised that she is in Melbourne for some reason, instead of living in a desert already! WTF?! Is the desert not big enough for her?

    • I disagree with her opinions, but I think some of this criticism is unwarranted. I’m sure Q&A felt that they needed someone on the panel to “balance” Bob Carr, and if it wasn’t Dr Song it would have been some two-bit Liberal Party mouthpiece who would have done everything they could to derail the conversation and waste as much time as possible on irrelevant issues. We should be grateful we got Dr Song who at least put her opinions articulately and succinctly.

      • “Dr Song who at least put her opinions articulately and succinctly.”

        lol. No she didn’t.

        She served the anti population argument argument well. She presented as utterly clueless and self serving.

  3. What is the immigration rate into South Korea! How does South Korea get by when very little of it is foreign-born!

  4. We are fortunate to have Dr Jay Song in our country. Such knowledge and skill she brings cannot be found here. I think she exemplifies everything wonderful about 457 visas.

    I want to bring in AB de Villiers from South Africa on a 457 visa as we don’t have a batsmen ( that’s right not a ‘batter’) of his skill.

    Best bat in the world by a mile. An absolute freak athlete.

  5. We don’t need the skilled immigration program because of skill shortages, as we now know, it’s just a front to bring in lots of people to grow GDP.
    There are about 2.45 million unemployed/underemployed Australians, I’m sure they could easily fill the positions taken by those so called skilled immigrants in the permanent immigration program – about half of them getting permanent residence after coming across from the exploited temporary entrant program.
    Didn’t watch Q&A haven’t for a long, long time it makes me ill.

  6. Why do we have trained graduates in occupations that are supposedly in demand here but our graduates can’t get a job in this country & we are bringing in people from other countries? And our trained graduates are going overseas? Who makes this crap up? Its just so obviously dumb. (Of course its so much better to bring em in & pay em less & dumb the whole thing down!)/sarc. (You silly dumbkoff get into property why are you whinging?)

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      Because that’s how the university’s vice chancellers justify their 7 figure salary.

  7. “So why do we have a skilled intake again? To lengthen the dole queue? To rob developing nations of their skilled workers? And how exactly is the 130,000 strong skilled migrant program alleviating so-called skills shortages?”

    It has dual purposes: (1) increase the demand for goods and services of local businesses and grow the domestic markets, (2) keep the headline inflation numbers low by suppressing wages. So it is win-win for businesses. Skilled migrants mean they are skilled in these two ways of helping local businesses. And the theory goes flourishing local businesses will create jobs and the wealth created will eventually trickle down to the local population.

    We should be grateful that the government has not created a Ministry of Population:

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      So they’re skilled in shopping but not so much at wage negotiation. Semi-skilled then.

      What we had was a semi-skilled shortage. We ran a semi-skilled program to save Australia. That sounds about right.

      Straya. Half a country.

      • Oh no, my friend, locals are just as good as migrants for the first part (consumption) but not nearly as good for the second part (accepting low wages), which makes the migrants doubly more skilled than the locals.

        I bet the skill shortage will magically disappear as soon as the locals prove that they are as “skilled” as the migrants by start accepting 7-11-esque wages.

  8. Atlassian videos show that they import staff from Russia, Brazil, India, Vietnam – high wage nations to be sure – and their HR person is an immigrant too!

    (2m19s – the HR woman appears)
    (5m40s – he admits that 40% of Atlassian staff are foreigners)

    IT guys have told me that doing the same job in USA would pay them much more. Even on MB is a guy from USA who says that if he goes back and gets a job in USA, the pay would be significantly higher.

    LEIGH SALES: Well hang on, they’re taking Australian jobs.

    MALCOLM TURNBULL: Well that’s not right, actually. You know, in the – take in the ICT area and postgraduate tech’, if you like, computing sciences and so forth at universities, over three-quarters of the students studying here are foreigners. So, we don’t have enough Australians studying ICT,-nbn,-company/7008584

    Wages in Aussie IT crashed, so Aussies stopped studying that, so the jobs were given to 3rd world passport holders, so the wages fell further, so even less Aussies study IT…

    • But Australia must regain international competitiveness and soon. The costs of doing business must come down.

      If you want to keep wages high then the costs of land (OMG!!!), energy and red tapes must come down.

      • Ahahahahaha “want to keep wages high”… said who, when?

        Nobody wants that. Nobody that matters.

        Everybody that matters also wants expensive land.

        I wonder why we are where we are….

    • Kormanator_T800

      The IT company I work for does the same as Atlassian. If a local resigns or if we need someone new, we get a 457 visa person.

      They cost 0.6 of what a local costs, and we can work them harder as they don’t want the visa cancelled.

      Any local company not using 457 visas to the max would be negligent in its duty to shareholders.

    • This is correct. IT wages in Australia have experienced the same stagnation that US IT wages did for a while.
      When I migrated here, US and Australia IT wages were about at parity AND the dollar was at parity. (This was around 2010-2012).
      Fast forward 8 years, and now $100 AUD is worth only $75 USD. And friends making the same wage as me back then, $110K (USD and AUD at the time being equivalent) are now on $160K USD, for the same type and level of work. I’m on roughly $120K AUD, which is effectively $90K USD at the current exchange rate.
      Part of what happened in the US is that they dialed back their temp visa program to severely reduce temp IT workers. All of the Indian body shops in Seattle and the Bay Area, who used to recruit solely from Mumbai and such, were now forced to start phoning up actual US citizens who already lived locally. And what they found out is that these people cost more to hire because they weren’t 4 single guys from the subcontinent ‘hood sharing a 2BR unit. They had families, kids, homes, etc. at first world prices, that had to be paid for. Additionally, with so much demand now unable to be satisfied by excessive foreign workers willing to work for peanuts, companies had to raise wages to a point that more locals were interested in these jobs, as opposed to other jobs, because the labour pool was more limited than it had been a few years prior.
      All one has to do, to figure out how to get Aussie IT wages out of stagnation, is look at what the US did with temporary work visas. Cameron-Brookes of Atlassian is incorrect – it’s not that the changes to the temp work visa made it too difficult to bring people in, it’s that they haven’t yet made it difficult enough that companies see increasing wages as a necessary evil.

  9. The comment by the CEO of the Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia that many skilled migrants get knocked back because they lack local experience has multiple layers to it.

    On the surface it appears reasonable but it is also a means of firms and individuals blocking highly qualified individuals because they are a too well experienced. Direct experience and that of others bears this out where local business uses the ‘lack of local experience; when that person has worked across different regions and in more complex markets but for some reason the Strayan market is so individual it means that person is is not able to find work.It’s a parochialism that is endemic in the country and a blanket excuse which highlights the timidity and risk averse nature of business.

  10. So now frustrated skilled immigrants are demanding the government pay for them to get the experience needed to displace established or “aspiring” locals. Very interesting.

    Just a few simple facts blows away the “skills shortages” story without any recourse to complex statistical arguments: If there were skills shortages, wages in the affected occupations would be rising way, way above the inflation rate, if they’re were skills shortages, local students would not be paying thousands for work experience as interns, especially in IT businesses. So clearly it’s a big myth and an old one to boot. But there’s a skills shortage, says every business operator and business lobby – because labour can never be cheap enough. Ever.

    • haroldusMEMBER

      How about some mutual obligation beyatchez.

      Also I hear the green army is recruiting now.

      • haroldusMEMBER

        Actually this is genius if I don’t mind saying so myself.

        “Migrate for the dole scheme”.

        Picked up in the minibus from the 4-per-bedroom in Harris Park to clean the verges of the M4, daily drug testing.

        Can work as Uber at night.

        Even better – reus can develop an app for the idle down time – “Uber relations”.

        “It’s like Uber, for relations”

  11. haroldusMEMBER

    It’s heartbreaking because they pin their hopes and dreams on when they come across to Australia…”


    It’s heartbreaking because they pin their hopes and dreams on the country in which they were born; Australia…

    • It is funny that these migrants want to migrate to Australia without job offers. For me it is unthinkable but I guess there are many desperate ones out there.

      • It’s funny that this should be the case when there is a huge skills shortage.

        It’s funnier that they should be allowed to.

        It’s funniest that we are paying for this funny business.

      • Because citizenship is the golden ticket.

        From the point of view of foreigners, Australia already has a form of UBI- Medicare.

        It also has (more or less) free schooling from K-12 which is of reasonable quality (and if you can get the kids into a selective all the better).
        You can completely understand immigrants taking the risk.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        The bigger question is why anyone is issued a “skilled immigrant” visa without a job contract.

  12. The demand for open borders to allow the free flow of goods, capital and labour on the principles of free trade and open markets is a Marxist plot?

  13. Dr Song seemed like a very nice person but she came across as a dribbling stooge on Q&A.

    • Nice person? Comes and takes a cream job then advocates population growth at our expense. Doesn’t want to give us a choice. She was on there promoting what’s against our interests.

      She smiled, tricking the male brain that she’s nice, because she’s just smart enough to know that works to get her own way.

  14. She didn’t do migrants any favours, I doubt she would have ever been out of Sydney or Melbourne CBD’s

  15. I know a lot of doctors and their prose is far superior to that illiterate dribble.

    Doctor used to mean medical doctor. Not owning a doctorate in migration ffs. The university machine needs to be addressed if this is what’s being punched out.

  16. The one thing that confuses me is why the Turnbulls, personally, would support high immigration. Lucy is from a very “establishment” Australian family, and Malcolm – although much has been made of his real estate dealings – actually made most of his money in high-tech. Establishment families and high-tech entrepreneurs are two groups who generally tend to favor low population growth. Why are they different? Do you think these policies reflect their personal views, or are they just towing the party line?

    • Policy or will of a politician is rarely defined by his / her personal preference / inclinations.

  17. So why do we have a skilled intake again?

    Good question. What’s your answer ? What is the appropriate role for skilled immigration ?

  18. I’m an australian born IT professional who has worked in the industry for over 15 years, I’ve been unemployed for 5 months….

    • Kormanator_T800

      What are your skills?

      Sadly, you’re probably too old and too expensive to compete against a 457 visa holder.

    • And you’re not the only one I know. I am fortunate enough to have full time permanent employment in IT, and I am clinging to it with everything I’ve got. Once one gets over 40 (or god forbid over 50), and is female (which I am), we have it even worse, because most of us don’t tick the “ornamental” box often used to justify bringing a woman in.

  19. As a side note, homelessness and beggars seemed to have rocketed in Sydney over the last few years as the mass immigration as accelerated. Before it would be unusual to see a beggar on the street in the Sydney CBD, now seemingly every major corner or railway stations as beggars all over the place with signs and bowls. It feels as bad as SAN Francisco nearly here now.

    • Don’t be concerned. The Greens are addressing the Australia day date, and will eventually get to this.

  20. “They are now demanding that taxpayers provide government-sponsored internships to help skilled migrants gain local experience, and a chance to work in their chosen field.” (and assist in putting even more genuine locals out of work).

    Somebody tell me I’m dreaming this. History will damn our politicians to hell, and rightly so.

  21. I’m a recent skilled migrant to Australia from a non English speaking country myself, and I agree that the numbers are too much & the quality of the skilled workers don’t match up to the job market requirements. But to solve this problem, we will likely have to dismantle the foreign student market…. one of the main things that attract foreign students to Australia is not the quality of education but the fact that they have a better chance of gaining residency & earning more working at a 7/11 than working as a skilled worker back home. Having access to a large network of skilled migrants what I have noticed is that people are quite smart & play the points system it’s based on, for example… it’s easier to get qualified as a pastry chef than an engineer, so they become a pastry chef, come to Australia & do something else. It’s just a way to get in. The migration agents, education agencies… e.g. IDP, universities… they all make money out of it by proactively recommending people to do this. Most of my network & I are lucky to have good jobs, above average wages etc. but the key to this when i think about it is really down to 3 things…. 1. technical/professional skills 2. English, not just the tick the box English, but command as a first language 3. cultural adaptability….. reduce the numbers, Easy. Increase the quality, I have no idea.

  22. It does’t matter what is said here, she was on Q&A and thus got a lot of airplay. BS it is, but lots of people heard it and I’d say more heard it than will read the other pieces. It’s a good example of throw enough shit and some will stick.