Yesterday, the lobby group for Australia’s migration agents – the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA) – attacked the $53,900 minimum salary attached to the Coalition’s new regional visas:
The Migration Institute of Australia has criticised the decision to require regional-based migrants to earn $53,900 a year in order to qualify for permanent residency.
“While the Government is telling regional Australia it is listening to concerns about skills shortages, they are going to make it as hard as possible to fill them,” institute president John Hourigan said.
“The requirement to earn this level of income for three years is not reasonable given the already suppressed nature of rural economies struggling with drought and diminishing investment.”
This follows the MIA’s lobbying last month to have the pay floor for ‘skilled’ regional workers lowered to between $30,000 and $45,000:
John Hourigan, national president of the Migration Institute of Australia warns many migrants will find it difficult to meet the [$53,900] income threshold and it may expose them to exploitation.
“Many of the regionally based jobs these migrants will fill will be in the retail, tourism, hospitality and agricultural sectors, which are also predominantly part-time, casual and seasonal. To reach this $53,900 salary level, visa holders may be forced to work excessive hours or more than one job”.
“Many of these visa holders may never be able to meet this threshold requirement to progress to permanent residency, creating an underclass of migrant workers in regional areas,” Mr Hourigan said.
Over 5,500 people have signed an online petition calling on Immigration Minister David Coleman to reduce the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) to $30,000-$45,000. The petition argues that the proposed income threshold is much higher than a temporary resident in regional Australia can earn from ordinary employment…
“While the Government is telling regional Australia it is listening to concerns about skills shortages, they are going to make it as hard as possible to fill them, [Mr Hourigan said].
“They are also sending a clear message to skilled migrants that Australia does not want them.’’
Seriously, you cannot make this stuff up.
The existing $53,900 Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) has been in place since 2013-14, and has fallen $23,000 below the median full-time Australian salary of $76,900, which comprises both skilled and unskilled workers.
Joanna Howe, Senior Lecturer in Law at University of Adelaide, explains that this absurdly low TSMIT has created a low-skilled migrant underclass and has helped crush Australian wages:
This crisis has been precipitated by the federal government’s decision to freeze the salary floor for temporary skilled migrant workers since 2013.
…the government has chosen to put downward pressure on real wages for temporary skilled migrants, thereby surreptitiously allowing the TSS [temporary skilled shortage] visa to be used in lower-paid jobs…
TSMIT is intended to act as a proxy for the skill level of a particular occupation… TSMIT’s protective ability is only as strong as the level at which it is set…
But since 1 July 2013, TSMIT has been frozen at a level of A$53 900… This means that the TSS visa can increasingly be used to employ temporary migrant workers in occupations that attract a far lower salary than that earned by the average Australian worker.
Clearly, lowering the TSMIT to between $30,000 and $45,000 would de-skill Australia’s visa system even further, undercutting Australian workers and lowering wage growth.
Instead of further debasing the skilled migration program, the wage floor for all skilled migrants (both permanent and temporary) should be set at the 80th to 90th percentile of earnings.
This would ensure that the scheme is used sparingly by employers on only the highest skilled migrants, not as a general labour market tool for undercutting local workers and eliminating the need for training.