16 November 2011

Skilled Australia visa holders shun WA despite work opportunities

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New figures released by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship indicate that despite the skills shortage and employment opportunities in Western Australia, the majority of skilled migrants are choosing to settle in the Eastern states.

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DIAC data suggests skilled migrants are choosing to settle in NSW, Victoria and Queensland despite work opportunities out West.

The Australian Government's plan to target skilled foreign labour to the Western Australian mining industry has been dealt a blow with the release of migrant settlement data this week.

The Australian Immigration Update 2010-11 shows that the number of skilled Australia visa holders moving to Western Australia fell 10% in the last financial year despite the publicly stated wishes of the Western Australian Government and industry to attract more skilled migrants.

Furthermore, the number of new permanent residents from overseas living in Western Australia also declined by 1300 to 34,233, despite an increase in Australia's overall migrant intake. Of this number, 19,713 were from the Skill Stream of Australia's migration program, down from 22,047 in 2009-10.

Meanwhile, despite offering fewer employment opportunities and more competitive labour markets, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland picked up the most new permanent migrants in 2010-11, with 65,700, 53.200 and 38,852 respectively. All three Eastern states recorded in increase in net migration.

Monash University population expert Dr Bob Birrell said the figures indicate a failure of government policy in achieving its targeted migration aims.

"The government has put more emphasis on employer sponsorship but any employer, no matter where they are in the country, can sponsor a migrant," he said.

"There's no priority given to locations where there's a stronger case for allowing employers to sponsor migrants."

Dr Birrell said this is causing population density and overcrowding problems in Australia's Eastern urban centres at the expense of Western Australia, where increased population is required.

"Employer nominations come first but they don't differentiate by the state or how crucial the occupation is, so we've got a very large program which is causing a lot of problems in Melbourne and Sydney ... when WA is crying out for migrants," he said.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA has responded to the immigration data by claiming the state needs 500,000 more skilled workers by 2020, indicating there are growing opportunities for foreign workers considering emigrating to Australia.

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