20 October 2006

Australian unemployment at a record low

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With the nation amid record low unemployment, Australian businesses and the Government are being forced to lure skilled workers from overseas.

Australia Needs Skills expos are being held this week in the UK and Ireland, connecting employers with prospective employees looking for a chance to work in Australia.

"Employers will meet people with the skills and experience they need, while skilled workers will have the opportunity to learn about visas and employment opportunities in Australia," Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Amanda Vanstone said.

The expos are part of global campaign to recruit 100,000 workers onto Australian shores.

Warm sunny climate, safe streets and abundant jobs are some of the pros on offer. So much so that the BBC has produced a 20-episode reality television series called Wanted Down Under, documenting the challenges faced by new emigrants from Britain.

"It's not non-stop sunshine and they are not prepared for the heat either or the range of creepy crawlies and reptiles," Production manager Sophie Cole told The West Australian.

In the last five years since 2001, more than 90,000 people have migrated to Australia from the UK and Ireland, more than from any other countries.

"British and Irish skilled workers have demonstrated they have the right skills, qualifications and experience that Australia is seeking," Senator Vanstone has stated.

India, China and the Philippines also are a large source of skilled migrants, including health and medical staff, welders, slaughtermen, metal fabricators and IT professionals.

There has also been a massive growth in the intake of workers under a temporary skilled migration visa subclass 457. Figures, obtained through the Senate, show that in 2002–2003 there were fewer than five slaughtermen on the visas, which by 2005–2006 had increased to 950. The number of metal fabricators jumped in the same period from 10 to 790 and motor mechanics from 100 to 540, The Age reported.

The Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley said that is why Labor would strictly monitor employers accepting workers on this kind of visa so as to ensure there was no erosion of Australian workers' wages and conditions.

Meanwhile, Australian workers are benefiting from the labour shortage with improved conditions. Prime Minister John Howard introduced an $837 million package to offer apprentices aged 30 and over a $150-a-week cash bonus to supplement their wages during their first year in any one of 41 trades.

The Australian Defence Forces, faced with declining recruits in the 18 to 25 age bracket, are looking at sign-up payments of as much as $20,000 and waiving HECS fees for higher education.

Other Australians being urged to meet the changing demands in the workforce include struggling Western Australian farmers being asked to become miners, as many are affected by severe drought that has destroyed their crops and their income.

The Western Australian Farmers Federation says the mining industry would welcome them because farmers have relevant skills and experience.

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