Visa farce mushrooms with nurses added to shortage list

For more than five years, MB has regularly ridiculed Australia’s ‘skilled’ visa system, which we have proven is poorly targeted, ineffective, and is failing in its stated purpose of alleviating chronic ‘skills shortages’ across the economy (see here).

On Friday, the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business published a Traffic Light Bulletin outlining proposed changes to the skilled migration occupation lists, which added nursing to the list of occupations purportedly in shortage and in need of migrant workers:

This comes despite the Department’s latest Nurses skills shortage report reporting that nursing is oversupplied with workers:

While there were differences by specialisation, in 2017-18, employers generally filled their nurse vacancies with relative ease.

In 2017-18, 72% of nurse vacancies were filled and there was an average of 7.2 applicants per vacancy. These results are fairly consistent with those experienced over the previous three years (see Figure 1).

The vast majority of applicants were qualified nurses, however, over two thirds of qualified applicants were not considered suitable.

The primary reason for unsuitability was either a lack of experience in a specialisation or a lack of general experience in the occupation. Other reasons included poorly written applications, poor interview performance, not being registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), and a lack of desired soft skills…

The supply of nurses has increased in recent years, with nursing graduate numbers and nurse registrations at historically high levels.

In 2016, more than 11,000 students graduated from a nursing bachelor course and 6500 students completed a diploma level enrolled nursing course. In March 2018, more than 392,800 nurses had general registration with AHPRA…

Employment outcomes for nursing graduates are fairly strong. In 2017, 79.3% of university nursing graduates were employed full-time four months after graduating. While higher than the average for all graduates (71.8%), outcomes are well below the historical employment outcomes for nurses (of above 90% from 2006 to 2012).

Given nursing has been deemed by the Department to not be in shortage, why has it been added to the skilled occupation list, thereby enabling the importation of migrant labour?

Australia’s skilled visa farce continues…

Leith van Onselen


  1. I know student nurses about to graduate that will struggle to get jobs.

    U would think being Australian would be an advantage but no

    • Being an Australian is a disadvantage – you have a HECS/HELP debt to pay back.

      Plus migrants will work for way less than you are willing do. Employing Aussie workers is too expensive.

      • we used to have free tertiary education but somehow those who had it for free convinced us that is not good and voted it out

        we cannot blame immigrants for the fact our education and training system is bad

          • Agreed – people need to be paid a living wage …we can’t hyper-inflate housing and then blame people for wanting a wage that can at least afford the lower end of Australian society…

            i really am tired of employers crying ‘shortage’ when they just won’t pay the right wage. I know running a business isn’t easy, with tough margins, as their own business rent and housing-related wage costs bite, but we can’t keep destroying worker conditions…

            It seems we really can safely keep pointing the finger at property-related Rent Seeking for most of the economic (and many of the social) problems in our country.

          • It would be good to see MB run an article on the Rent-Seekers. I noticed in the recent Forbes billionaires list that quite a few companies in the top 20 are in property management/investment. Money is being made here. The likes of MB can highlight who is making the money and whether they are paying tax (or just offshoring).

    • Been a local Australian is in fact now for many your disadvantage, people immigrating from especially the 3rd world have a huge advantage, they live in Oz, access ok paying jobs compared to back home, but they are smart buyers and will often buy things like clothes etc from their own countries. I have talked with Koreans who told me they just don’t buy clothes in Oz, too expensive. They often also send money back home, and have access to all the other 3rd world advantages that you as a local often don’t unless you have close friends over there.

  2. “The vast majority of applicants were qualified nurses, however, over two thirds of qualified applicants were not considered suitable.

    The primary reason for unsuitability was either a lack of experience in a specialisation or a lack of general experience in the occupation.”

    Sounds like the old “can’t get experience because you don’t have a job and cant get a job because you don’t have experience”

    • This is very much the case for newly graduated registered nurses in NSW.

      There are a pretty limited number of funded graduate positions on offer each year in the public hospital sector. For those new graduates who don’t get such a placement, the options are limited – principally, private aged care (aka Leith’s “bedpan economy”).

      • Vibrants might have corrupted VicRoads – they have corrupted the unis, the immigration department, childcare, NDIS, real estate.

  3. I don’t think that a ‘nursing support worker’ and the others are the same as an actual nurse. A nursing support worker is as the name suggests, someone that supports a nurse, rather than the nurse. For instance, to become one — — nowhere is a nursing degree mentioned.

    If these new additions were for actual nurses I’d agree it was a stupid move given the number of nursing graduates. In fact, they appear aimed at jobs that Australians in general don’t want to do (wiping the butts of those in nursing homes).

    I agree that migration is excessive, but nothing wrong with migrating employees in work that Aussies genuinely don’t want to do.

    • So, these nurse support workers are basically unskilled and very low-paid (average of $36,787 per year). Lift wages and I’m sure they will get all the locals they need.

      • Indeed. Low skilled work. Very unglamorous.
        Locals might do it for more money but the headline is misleading.

          • And who is going to pay for these higher wages? Higher nursing home fees will result, there’s no free lunch. Sounds like more money from the taxpayer, the elderly or their families.

          • Here’s an idea Davey, let’s change the cost structure and start paying the people actually doing the work more and reducing the discretion of management to take and inflate their pay?! How much could you cut and yet still not find a ‘skills shortage’ of CEOs? Quick spend more money to get a big 4 consultant to say how rare we are and how we should be paid 200x median! Hypocrisy is the greatest luxury.

          • You’re conflating issues Toby. There is no evidence that cutting the pay of CEOs (who might/might not be overpaid in some circumstances, but because there is one per company, is a drop in the bucket cost wise) will do anything for workers. Ditto, paying consultants is for the most part a fraction of the cost of employee remuneration.

            It’s interesting how some people on this forum appears to think that there is an endless pool of funds to pay workers more. All I can say is that clearly they have never run a business.

          • Yeah Davey, because heaven forbid we actually pay decent wages as that would impact company profits.

          • That the best you can do zaxxon? We already have one of the highest minimum wages in the world.

            How’s the dream of house price crash going for you?

          • @Davey I have and do run a business. This is a question of the equitable division of surplus. That working people take an appropriate share of the growth of an economy that they contribute to. No evidence! Take a look around you. Your safe, secure, stable and cushy society is the result of this scheme over the last several decades. Recent decades of vandalism by ideologues and people like you are destabilising the whole show. Evidence. You pick your evidence based on your selective bias and careful indoctrination by vested interests in a big game of mates – where everyone pats each other on the back for parroting the friendly company line and profits over muchly beyond what their natural capacities would otherwise allow. All the while chiming ‘we earned it!’ from a system increasingly rigged in your favour!

            And don’t put words in my mouth… I said nothing about pools of money… if you can’t run a profitable business don’t underpay and blame your staff. Try something else. That’s what the market is telling you.

      • Tim FullerMEMBER

        How is $36k still a figure used to define an annual full-time salary? – What century are we in again? – It should be the tax-free threshold perhaps, but that’s it.

      • The nursing Support roles are like carers in the Retirement Homes and Disability Services. They take a 6-10wk course in basic concepts like wiping someone elses bum, feeding them and showering them, heck the handling of patients with bedsores would be very demanding I would say. But to pay them $20ph plus penalties could be lucrative to some workers who might be doing this and a day job. I know many Aussies and migrants employed in these carer roles, I don’t think we need to attract migrants for this specific role, FFS.

    • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

      “Immigrants are needed to do the work that existing [insert name of any Western nation] won’t do”

      This is the number one propaganda phrase pushed by Globalists – actual studies in the US on over 465 different jobs classifications found that only FOUR yes 4 job categories were dominated by immigrants:

      Labour shortages are always and everywhere reflect a shortage of remuneration on offer.

      • I disagree. I think there’s merit in leaving the well paid jobs to locals, have temporary migrants do the ones that locals don’t. This allows a higher standard of living for locals.

        • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

          Unless you’re not a highly skilled local, then you just get screwed – but hey, who gives a sh!t about them when every high paid local can afford their own house elf (until they either vote you favorite politicians out of power or start stringing up house elves).

    • Agreed, (most of) this was my immediate thought when I read the piece. As you say, it’s important to to make the distinction between registered nurses (bachelor degree) and nursing support workers aka assistants in nursing (certificate III).

      However, I couldn’t disagree more profoundly with your conclusion. Particularly the notion of importing workers for “…jobs that Australians in general don’t want to do.” I understand the intuition, but this is exactly the argument deployed to permit wage suppressing levels of immigration.

      I think it’s reasonable to assert that most people don’t *want* to do their jobs and wouldn’t unless sufficiently compensated. So, if we have a shortage of people making themselves available for these – IMO objectively bad – jobs at the existing pay rate than we simply need to pay them more.

      • The thing to add is Nursing Homes & Aged Care Facilities have no minimum staffing ratios unlike Hospitals. This leads to situations seen in the Royal Commission into Aged Care. The nurses union has some info on this:

        Post Royal Commission I reckon we’ll eventually see a scenario similar to the Child Care fiasco with ABC Learning, where the big Private Companies will all need to exit and it will be taken over by predominantly not for profit entities.

      • What you’re missing is nurse suppport workers are sometimes people also bridging into nursing degrees (Assistant in Nursing) or Nursing students who have completed two years of uni and working part time (Enrolled nurses) while they finish their degree. Still a valuabel pathway.

    • nurse support workers are people who clean shit – a job that no Australian wants to do for a minimum wage

          • There is plenty of money out there to pay far more to sports stars and bankers and they do absolutely nothing useful for anyone.

          • keeping someone in a nursing home is very expensive for the resident (or their family, or government subsidy). So if the staff are being paid minimum wage, someone else is making big dollars.

          • Jarrod: Is there any evidence that there is a way to funnel sufficient money from sports star/bankers to aged care to pay for these higher wages? Sounds like a communist/socialist dream.

            Jim: You’re assuming that most nursing homes are making windfall profits — is there any evidence of this? And why would they be able to do so? Are there substantial barriers to entry? Any evidence of players abusing their market powers?

          • Ok Davey, keep your low wages exactly as they are, but decrease house prices by at least 70% so that those low wages can afford someone a decent life. If living wages are too high for these “sh1t” jobs like you’re arguing then daily living expenses need to decrease. Housing drop by 70% , food down by 50%, and so on. Would that make you happy?

          • Davey can you give one good reason why nurses should be paid so low when you consider how important their work is?

            And if the answer is “because public money is scarce” then please justify health bureaucrat salaries (which are easily higher than a nurse’s, yet less important), franking credits (which are far more costly and yet less important) and politician’s living away from home allowances.


          • Arrow — see my comment above. The change in policy is not about nurses. It’s about nursing support workers that are nowhere near as qualified as nurses. Most established nurses I’ve known make a solid middle class living — which isn’t to deny that many nursing graduates have trouble getting into the system, but let’s not confuse them with ‘nursing support workers.’ And of course nurses don’t earn as much as doctors, they are (on average) nowhere near as smart as them.

            Franking credits are easy to justify. Companies are a conduit vehicle for investors, and franking credits ensure that the aggregate taxation paid by the company and shareholder is equal to the rate the shareholder would pay had they owned the business directly.

            Politician remuneration is a different issue. It’s in the eye of the beholder how much money those running the country should get.

          • Mega65 — I’d love to see lower house prices, notwithstanding that I own a house in Melbourne. And what a nice part of Melbourne it is.

          • Owns a house but can’t afford membership? You think MB has an endless supply of money to pay for this service?

      • That is a good point. Temporary working visas wouldnt be a problem if they werent a backdoor pathway to permanent residency.

        • Now we’re speaking the same language. Temporary low-paid workers do have a place, but I agree that in most cases given them PR is not in the nation’s interest.

          • You do remember that there are other employable options alongside to PR: extension of the TV sine-die, rapid churn of current people, short waiting periods and so on.

            Sadly, the system is broken beyond repair and closing or restricting one or more of the above avenues will cause wailing the likes of which you have never seen.

          • It makes little difference if the slave class is native or immigrants, the same problems with slums, social unrest, etc, will occur.

    • Yes, they’re effectively an unskilled position but doing a well run and funded traineeship is a big help getting into the industry.

      Our neighbour’s 17 year-old is doing the Cert III as part of a school-based traineeship and it’s been fantastic for her. With youth unemployment and underemployment at chronic levels I’d expect our state and federal governments to do a better job of funding and pushing these options first, then turn to the immigration option.

  4. Stewie GriffinMEMBER

    Mass Immigration is simply class warfare against the working man – in this case, the working woman.

    /It should do wonders for the pay of what is already one of the most under-paid professions.

    • Yep, and when the local wages of those workers falls to meet the 3rd world intl benchmark, it will lead to an increasing “gender pay gap” which will in turn be blamed on the white, middle class patriarchy.

      the circle of life continues….

  5. It’s clear nurses are over paid. Therefore, for the private hospital and aged care sector to be viable, and continue to make donations to the LNP, wages and conditions must be crushed.

    • ….and the real Left, representing actual workers, continues to basically not exist, and not speak out against continually reduced wages and conditions…

      I’ve never been a union man but I think their time to come back in force has arrived again…who else will stand up for the worker?

      From what little history I know, Unions are largely to thank for ensuring workers could capture gains in technological advancement, create the middle class, and ensure Capital did not reap all the gains of technological gains….? Am I right?

      • Yes. I’m no lefty but I’m coming around to this view. Why are nurses currently paid so little given their job is obviously valuable and important. The answer is probably class based. They have no bargaining power without a strong union and the managers are used to shafting them.

        • One propaganda bit you need to remember is “Militant Unions”. Along side that, add Papa Rupert’s constant banshee wailing about ‘how bad it is for the “consumers” that these unruly workers/police/pilots are striking for higher wages’ and how they should ‘just find another, less inconvenient way to protest, possibly by taking it to Twitter, writing an email or, if they really must, hold a demonstration at their desks, between 11:30PM and 11:32PM’

          For an extra dose of cognitive dissonance of the neoliberal regime we’re under, square this with the hand-wringing about stagnant wages and whatever shall we do about it.

  6. Michaelia Cash‘s helmet hair (story thumbnail) certainly makes a strong case for skills shortage in hairdressers. Worst pollie haircut since Craig ‘half sucked mango’ Emerson.

  7. I think you said it right the other week when any wage pressure to increase wages appears suddenly that profession has a skills shortage and goes on the list. Just insane and crooked.

    • I’m sure that a significant number of shut-ins could find it in them to make a donation of ‘gel’ for her hairdo …

  8. We have a skilled politician shortage. Perhaps they should go on the list. Get in some overseas skilled politicians. From the CCP perhaps. What? They already do? Sorry. As you were.

  9. Where is the nursing Federation on this? Probably commencing a campaign to make nursing workplaces safer and less threatening for LGBTQ identifying nurses, mandate pronoun use and reserve entry positions for vulnerable disadvantaged immigrant populations. When presented at the ALP caucus this will get rave reviews and guarantee entry to the political main game for the deserving union organiser behind it all.