South Australia urged to introduce State specific visas to attract overseas workers
South Australia wants to attract more people to its small cities and country towns and could adopt a radical plan to boost populations in these areas, including offering more visas for jobs.
Enticing more people to move from overseas could work well for the State as many automatically want to move to places such as Sydney and Melbourne, but it is regional areas where there are shortages of workers.
A plan outlined by think tank, the SA Centre for Economic Studies, recommends offering an easier path to citizenship and opening up job visas for more occupations as part of a regionally focused migration programme as well as introducing a State specific temporary visa.
It says that visa changes due to come onto force in March 2018 that will restrict the number of temporary visas granted as well as the occupations, are a gut reaction to problems relating to housing and infrastructure in cities like Sydney and Melbourne but could cut population growth in places such as South Australia where migration was needed to balance an ageing population and people moving interstate.
The report also states that concerns about migrants making unemployment rates worse were not supported by the evidence which actually shows migration has no impact on the employment rates of the non-migrant population and a very small but positive impact on average wages.
Migration Solutions chief executive Mark Glazbrook, who organised funding for the research, said it was obvious the current structure of the migration program did not support South Australian businesses.
'Unmet demand for workers, regional depopulation and our ageing population would benefit greatly from the introduction of a new migration program which is based on genuine demand. For too long there has been a widespread misunderstanding that migration takes jobs, However this research shows that under the right settings, rules and regulations that migration can stimulate economic growth and prosperity,' he explained.
The report says that it is not just highly skilled professionals that are needed. There are labour shortages for semi and low skilled occupations as well as skilled occupations.
'Our research found a number of aspects of the current migration system that did not meet the needs of the South Australian economy or South Australian employers, in particular that the use of a single level for the minimum wage level for jobs to be eligible temporary skilled visas (called the TSMIT) means that many positions in lower wages areas, which is most of South Australia, are locked out of the skilled migration system,' the report says.
'The current migration system lacks regional flexibility and is focussed on jobs with unmet demand nationally, whereas the skills gaps identified by many regional South Australian employers are often in different areas which are not typically eligible for skilled worker visas,' it adds.
It recommends the introduction of a temporary work visa that gives greater flexibility to regional needs, and allows local employers to address their own unmet demand, rather than positions in demand in the major cities.