The Australian skilled migration intake has
increased in 2010-11 but fallen short of its
departmental planning level.
Of the total Australian immigration intake in 2010-11, 113,725 places were allocated to the Skill Stream, indicating a 5.6 per cent increase from 2009-10 and making up 67.5 per cent of total Migration program grants.
The rise in skilled migrant visa grants suggests a return to business as usual after a deliberate drop in numbers in 2009-10 due to the global recession, as was commented on by Australian Visa Bureau Managing Director Guy Bradley:
"The percentage increase revealed in the Annual Report 2010-11 suggests that the decrease in visa grants in 2009-10 was a temporary aberration based on global economic circumstances rather than a change in long-term immigration policy direction.
"It seems the Australian Government’s commitment to skilled migration remains strong".
The report explains that skilled migration is a key priority for the Australian Government as Australia visa holders of this kind are more likely to "contribute to the Australian economy through their skills, qualifications, entrepreneurialism and future employment potential".
However, the number of granted visas actually fell just short of the 113,850 departmental planning level 2010-11, meaning that 125 prospective skilled migrants missed out on a visa despite the stipulated quota and high demand.
The report also found that the department has achieved its objective in boosting the state-specific and regional migration (SSRM) programs, which attempt to alleviate skills shortages in the regions by offering location-specific visas to skilled foreign workers.
"The SSRM programs continue to be a priority for the government and these programs accounted for 32.9 per cent of the Skill Stream of the 2010-11 Migration Program," the report states.
"A total of 37,410 visas were granted under the SSRM programs in 2010-11, representing an increase of more than 2.3 per cent over the previous year".
Most Australian states and territories saw a significant increase in the receipt of SSRM visa grants in 2010-11, including the Australian Capital Territory (up 48.5%), Tasmania (up 22.8%) and New South Wales (up 14.3%). Only South Australia saw a decline in regional skilled migration, down 21.8% to 7460.
These figures show firstly that the Government is interested in extracting maximum economic benefit from its skilled migration program, tailoring the system to patch up any skills shortage tears in the immigration quilt.
Secondly, this move towards regional targeted migration is the product of the Government's more general commitment to regional Australia and its current political siuation. The current Labor Government does not hold a majority in the Parliament and is reliant on the votes of 1 Green MP and 4 Independents, 3 of which are from rural and regional seats, which has meant regional issues like skills shortages have attracted much more attention over the last year.
Whatever the reasons, it is likely the move towards location-targeted migration will continue, as will many opportunities for skilled workers to emigrate to Australia.
Read Part Two of our Australian Immigration Report 2011 blog series on Student, Tourist and Working Holiday Visas.
- Aleks Vickovich is Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau.
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