No Top 5 permanent skilled visa occupation is in shortage

By Leith van Onselen

If you want a textbook example of why Australia’s skilled visa program is a giant fraud, look no further than the top five occupations granted permanent visas in the skilled stream in 2017-18:

  • Accountants (3505)
  • Software Engineer (3112)
  • Registered Nurses (1561)
  • Developer Programmer (1487)
  • Cook (1257)

According to the Department of Jobs and Small Business’ “historical list of skills shortages in Australia”, not one of these professions was in shortage over the four years to 2017, whereas Software Engineer has never been in shortage in the 31 year history of the series!

Of course, we also know that this same government data shows that skills shortages in Australia are tracking near historical lows, close to recessionary levels:

So if skills shortages in Australia are almost non existent, then why is Australia still running a turbo-charged 111,000-strong permanent (let alone temporary) skilled migration program?

CBA senior economist, Gareth Aird, provides a hint:

In Australia’s case at the moment there is no evidence of widespread skills shortages based on the broad-based weakness in wages growth. The relatively high intake of skilled workers looks to be a pre-emptive strike on the expectation that there will be skills shortages in the future. It does not appear to be a policy response to the evidence of skills shortages. This has implications for wages…

If “skills shortages” are not able to manifest themselves because employees are consistently able to hire from abroad, then employees have had a reduction in their bargaining power that is independent of the level of slack in the local labour market. Essentially talent is not scarce because firms can hire from a global pool of labour. The downward pressure that this applies on wages growth is amplified if a worker from abroad is able and willing to work at a lower rate of pay than local residents.

That’s right, Australia’s so-called skilled migration program is all about lowering labour costs for employers by crushing wages, while also feeding the growth lobby more consumers.

The deleterious impacts on infrastructure, housing, the environment, and liveability don’t even get a look in.

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Unconventional Economist


    • And the powers that be say, “It’s so that we can be more competitive internationally”. But who benefits from this?

      If the workers’ wages are being suppressed, who is, therefore, benefitting from the “increased compitiveness”? How can it be anything other than the business owners, the capital holders and the public servants?

      There is little point having “Australia” as an aggregate entity benefit when the average Australian sees their prospects diminishing, especially relative to having a roof over their head.

      Remove cancerous housing hyperinflation issues, and most of these perceived “wage problems” go away, too.

      Else, our nation is treating symptoms as if they are the root cause problems.

      My 2c

      /End rant

      • Remove cancerous housing hyperinflation issues, and most of these perceived “wage problems” go away, too.

        Not really. Labour wage share would still have been heading downhill for decades, so wage growth would still be low, workers would just be in less debt.

      • Won’t someone think of the wealthy.
        How can they become more wealthy if everyday Australians are getting wage increases.
        And who controls the government?
        The whole point is so the wealthy get wealthier.

      • This.
        Also “It’s so that we can be more competitive internationally”.

        Why would we want to compete with 3rd world countries? That’s just plain stupid.

    • Strange Economics for graduatesMEMBER

      Plenty of unemployed graduates in the first 4 categories. I saw one story of a guy trained as an accountant, then tried as a nurse,but still no jobs. Many of these skilled migrants are pretty much entry level anyway. Just cheaper.
      So why would you gain a huge HECS debt to miss out on a job…

      But when you can get someone with 10 years experience for the price of a graduate and a 457 visa application…….And they don’t ask for training, development, and can live 6 in a 2 bedroom flat…

    • Yep, and negative wage growth for those in very unskilled jobs like cleaning, also have found outsourced parcel delivery services employing drivers for much less than min wage and so on.

  1. There is no shortage of skills. There is, however, a shortage of cheap skills.

    There is a shortage of skilled graduates willing to work for $54,000 a year. Imports are cheaper, as they are happy to move to a first world country, and you can work them 60 hours a week. Local grads have to pay off a massive HECS debt, and have some familiarity with local labour laws.

    Take a rich company like Atlassian, for example. Their CEO is always in the news complaining about skills shortages, but rather than training or paying more, they import around 30% of their developers from Vietnam on 457 and 487 visas.

    • And there is no jail for paying 457 visa staff less than $53k/year.

      So some “skilled” immigrants are on $25k/year.

    • Trust me none of these job thieving Indians work 60 hour weeks. They are usually the first ones to bolt out the door and not stay a minute longer in any workplace i have ever been …

  2. The whole business model is just so broken, you just have to ask yourself why do we even work 40+ hour weeks? What is the point of all this? Mass consumption of resources for what ends? To maintain a ridiculous standard of living and to feed all those who bought house prices cheap now selling at ridiculous prices and who own most of the resources.

    People really need to wake up to what is going on here, working long weeks to feed a broken system, which is trashing the planet and causing what appears increasing amounts of cruelty on all living creatures through slavery, no rest and the demand for materials from animals. Until we rethink this nothing will change.

    • Spot on, all to fuel mindless consumption. So we can fill an empty void left in our hearts due to lack of time for family and relationships.

      We would all be happier with less stuff, a slower pace of life with more meaningful interactions with each other and the animals / nature.

      • Totally agree, the way our “economy” and “busyness” is run feels so mindless but most are so sucked into it they cannot see it.

        Any ideas on how you would change this? Looks like an impossible task, like trying to convert someone with religious beliefs to becoming an atheist.

      • Re fixing it. I was thinking about it last night while riding my bike home. Where all good ideas come to me.

        So for me it’s about not playing within the current system the way they want you to.

        That for me means buying land further out, and living a sustainable existence that isn’t totally off grid but is far removed from it.

        Growing own foods, capturing water, storing solar, and even building your own home via mudbrick or similar technology which had low c02 impact and low cost.

        We can all repair more items, recycle more and reuse materials etc..

        Perhaps trade with like minded individuals could be facilitated via crypto and therefore negate the need to hold much fiat or use it for that matter.

        In my mind if we all did this kind of thing governments would become less relevant and have less money in their coffers. This would be a cause of concern for them, as their grip over society would be diminished.

        Probably a pipe dream but if enough adopt this lifestyle change it would have a real impact. After the GFC we saw many building tiny homes as an alternative to the current system and big mortgages.

        If we get a big enough crash, I think it would cause many to reevaluate the current system and why it’s not working.

      • People busy trying to survive day to day are too busy to plan the revolution, is the point being made. It is the young disenfranchised with time on their hands that bring about change. Keep everyone on the treadmill and you keep the rebellion suppressed.

    • One reason is that employers, the execs and managers are often workaholic by nature along with being a bit sociopathic and thus see the need to keep their workers in a state of semi-ownership, eg employ less workers for more hours. They would prefer slaves and total ownership but cant quite legally do that in our country. They are incapable of seeing the bigger picture. Ditto our politicians. As such the rest of the population have to associate this work/lifestyle in order not just to thrive but to survive as anything else is impossible without massive capital behind you and as a (neo liberal) culture the ‘work ethic’ is central to everything.

  3. There should be no occupation list. There should be a $1000/week tax on every work visa – offset by any income tax paid. Simple.

      • What if you want to drive growth in a particular skill set or industry for the strategic benefit of the country ?

        Wait, I know, only commies believe in crazy ideas like a strategy for a nation.

      • No, more like the complete opposite of that.

        Let’s say we wanted to do something like not only make the entire country run off renewable energy but be an exporter of energy and renewables technology.

        Do you think that’s a strategic goal that might benefit from some external expertise, or do you think we already know everything there is to know about it in-country ?

        Assuming you agree there might be the odd foreigner who knows a thing or two, how would you attract them to our shores ?

      • By paying them a wage worthy of their unique skills?
        Of course when I was at uni we were a world leader in solar technology, but exported it all because no one local was interested.

      • drSmithy, SpaceX is not allowed to hire foreigners but still invented reusable rockets before anyone else. And if 3rd world qualifications were so awesome, Aussies would go to 3rd world slums to study there. There is no need to import 3rd world “qualifications”.

        Why should the renewable energy experts, that you want to import, be paid less than $100k/year?

      • By paying them a wage worthy of their unique skills?

        And then hitting them with an extra “filthy foreigners” tax ?

      • If it is offset by income tax, the cost of hiring an external specialist shouldn’t be any higher; they will already be paying a significant amount of tax.

        52k per year of tax is about 180k per year. Few true technical experts cost less than that.

      • actually hitting their employer with a filthy foreigner tax to ensure the skills really don’t exist here, rather than exploiting the system to suppress wages. If no one in australia’s 20 million people have or can obtain the skill set then it is clearly worth the dirty foreigner tax.

      • I’d be willing to bet there are a lot of research scientists with uncommon and difficult to learn skills making a lot less than $180k.

        Rather than trying to come up with convoluted ways of setting a minimum salary by adding even more Cole city (and inevitable exceptions) into the tax code, why don’t we just set a minimum salary ?

      • bjw678, AUS has had an open border with NZ for 30 years – so make that 30 million people. There are literally millions of workers to choose from but bosses insist on importing males from 3rd world slums. No prizes for guessing why.

      • I’d be willing to bet there are a lot of dole bludgers with uncommon and difficult to learn skills as well. They just aren’t in demand by anyone willing to pay for them. Can you fart the national anthem while standing on your head and sculling a beer? Price or wages in this case is a fairly good indicator of the supply/demand balance, so I guess these unique skills aren’t in particularly high demand.

      • I’d be willing to bet there are a lot of dole bludgers with uncommon and difficult to learn skills as well. They just aren’t in demand by anyone willing to pay for them. Can you fart the national anthem while standing on your head and sculling a beer? Price or wages in this case is a fairly good indicator of the supply/demand balance, so I guess these unique skills aren’t in particularly high demand.

  4. I used to hear from an employer ‘ I can’t get any staff. Do u know anybody’
    I said I will come and work for u just pay me x
    Soon went quiet
    They all say they can’t get staff ….who want to work long hours for bugger all

  5. Actually I’m seeing the impact of it now – my company already pays me much less than they do for the same employee in the Bay area, and now they are rebasing their salary ranges to the local market medians, which means I’ll probably never see another increase in my working life….

  6. If our govt is happy to drive down wages, then I am assuming that they are also actively seeking ways to drive down property, so that these lower wages even have a shred of hope of affording to buy a property at a reasonable price………………………….

    • Strange economics and raised rental yield...MEMBER

      Many of these new Uber driving underpaid people are still happy with 4 people in a 2 bedroom flat – so rents will actually increase. Have a look at some city flats with 6 bunks to see. 6 people at 200 each rent…

  7. Aird seriously reckons the high level of skilled migration is a “pre-emptive strike on the expectation that there will be skills shortages in the future”?? What a joke. As if anyone is that forward-looking. This is nothing more than a cheap trick to expand profits by suppressing labour costs. Unlike American businesses, Australian ones can’t pay below minimum wage. This is their backdoor strategy for getting the same outcome – ie. increasing returns to capital

    • I think Mr Aird knows exactly why this is happening, his employer just can’t come out and say so directly. However if their analysis is to hold any credibility he needs to be able to explain low wage growth, so he’s allowed to mention that.

  8. Accountants (3505)
    Software Engineer (3112)
    Registered Nurses (1561)
    Developer Programmer (1487)
    Cook (1257)

    Programmers, nurses, accountants and cooks! That’s the exact same list that pertained when I migrated here 30 years ago. How amazing!

  9. I personally know of an Aust Govt agency or outsourced to Corporate,, running around Philippine hospitals trying to sign up nurses.
    FACT. The case I know offers jobs in Darwin and Canberra.
    They need to do further study in Aust ( paid for by Aust ) to get them qualified to Aust standards.

  10. This is why accountants have been found unsuitable:
    “Unsuitable applicants
    • The reasons given by employers on why an applicant was considered unsuitable include:
    ◦ A lack of required qualifications including applicants who were not, or were not in the process of becoming, a Certified Accountant or Certified Practicing Accountant.
    ◦ A lack of industry specific experience (e.g. tax or private equity). Some employers required at least three years work experience or management experience.
    ◦ A lack of work experience in Australia.
    ◦ Not possessing the communication skills sought by employers.
    ◦ Not possessing a strong work history, for instance short work tenure in companies.
    ◦ Not having working rights in Australia.”

    So why are we granting visas for accountants?

    • Oh oh oh… me sir, me! That “communication skills” bullshít is a catch-all thing… it’s usually code for:
      * Yeah – you look like you could be gunning for my place – you know too much
      * Yeah – we have this other guy here – you’re just ‘process filler’
      * Yeah – nah! can’t be arsed to make up another excuse – this will do.
      * Yeah – we wanted something different – can’t quite say what – but certainly not you.

  11. According to that second chart the biggest skills shortages occurred during the GFC. Fake news. It was the time when software developers were becoming long term unemployed, and being asked by the govt to consider a career change into the Mining Industry.

  12. Daughter’s friend did nursing, has to go OVERSEAS to South America (has family contacts) to get experience as she CANNOT get a job as a new graduate, too many nurses from overseas coming on visas.

    Lady I used to ride with was doing a course to confirm her nursing quals as she was not uni trained in the UK, 26 on course and all the others were from the Philippines.

    • Yeah you’d have to be dedicated or an idiot as an Aussie to study nursing these days and expect to work in Australia

      • The nurses I know working in Aged Care are all fed up and have either left or planning on leaving due to the lack of quality care outcomes being achieved in the last few years. Too many junior, under trained nurses are the cause apparently.

  13. I wrote to Mark McGowan last week about the revised list of graduates that would qualify for work visas. These included (among others), teachers, mechanical engineers and occupational therapists, none of whom were in shortage in WA according to WA specific labour market reports from the federal Dept. of Jobs and Small Business. I also wrote to my local MLA. His staffer wrote me some rubbish about the immigration being necessary to prop up unis and tourism. I asked to see the modelling that showed such a substantial economic benefit would occur. She referred that query on to Mark McGowan. So I am now waiting on two responses from Mr McGowan. Not holding my breath either. Am seriously thinking of going part time so I can start campaigning against these evil snot rags.

  14. Only skill shortage I can see is “elite honesty” … because the men’s cricket team hoovered up all the specialists.