Migration Institute: $53,900 salary too high for “skilled” visas

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.

Unconventional Economist


  1. Bring on the house-elf visa, with $15/k +board minimum conditions.

    Give me the monopoly on importing said elves.

    Will be awesome.

  2. Free house elves for first home buyers to help them get onto the ladder ! They can live in the closet and pay their full wage to the FHB as rent and can be exploited for fear of being sent back to bumfvckistan!

    Not doing so would be racist !

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      Agreed. We definitely need indentured guest workers. I’ve been lobbying for them for ages. It would allow me to bring in a variety of cheap massage ladies from across the Asian diaspora.

  3. reusachtigeMEMBER

    They need to scrap this and all minimum wages and let the market sort it out as we are a free democratic society and not the commies this legislation was designed to turn us into!

    • Jumping jack flash

      Where is the Capitalism? Where is the democracy?

      Sounds like we’re skating dangerously close to the pit of communism or maybe even a command economy…

      Next they’ll want to start regulating prices of essential goods and services! It’s a slippery slope.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      I’ll go along with this as long as we also Tax ALL income exactly the same,….including “Investment income” and Super returns.
      AND the withdrawal of anti strike laws.

    • Being back slavery. It should be legal once again to buy people from overseas and bring them here to Australia. They don’t even need a visa since there classified as ‘property.’

  4. So if the $50K plus threshold is too high and might expose them to exploitation, what’s a $30K threshold going to be like? Let’s legalise the exploitation! This guy’s a peanut.

    • He is no peanut, he paid (very well?) to lobby for exploitation, that is his job. The lobby group was named ” Migration Institute of Australia” so that the average peasant doesn’t actually know what they do, or worse, assumes they represent migrants!

  5. Most of the regional areas they want to put the vibrants have median incomes of $30 to $45K, if they wanted to pay people $50K they would just pay a skilled local. This of course doesnt apply to the extremely regional centres like Perth.

    • Is Perth a regional centre? Thought it was a big city, so wouldn’t $53,900 be closer to what someone needs to be able to take on debt and pay it off.

      • it is for the purposes of the regional migrant visa program. Version 2 next year may also include little towns like Sydney and Melbourne…

  6. Jumping jack flash

    There’s ways around that surely. A company I worked for while I was living in Sydney in 2011 specialised in Indonesian immigrants for coding and paid them 39K. Their jobs were all classified as “assistant” yet they performed full dev duties and were up to speed with all the latest tech and standards.

    Pretty sure 39K included super as well!