A new report of the Special Senate Committee on Temporary Migration found that Australia’s temporary migration system is “broken” and allows easy exploitation of foreign workers.
According to the chairman of the labor committee, Raff Ciccone, the closure of the international border in response to COVID has “Exposed the dependence of our economy on temporary migration”:
Ciccone also noted that before the pandemic, Australia had the second-largest temporary workforce in the OECD, as the survey heard “significant evidence” of worker exploitation.
The investigation made 40 recommendations, including granting new powers to the fair labor ombudsperson, increasing penalties for theft of wages, banning dubious operators from hiring temporary workers, speeding up processing times to improve responsiveness and flexibility to meet labor demand and improve routes and time. executives for permanent residence.
As usual, the survey does not recommend reducing the flow of temporary migrants to improve employment prospects and wages for Australian workers, or alleviate demographic pressures.
In addition, the dissenting report of the Greens of “Big Australia” also wants permanent residence to be handed out like a tick tock to everyone:
In this report, the Committee recommended (Recommendation 25):
… Restore the alignment that previously existed between the Temporary Qualified Program and the Permanent Qualified Program to ensure that, where appropriate, migrants have pathways to tenure and citizenship.
1.2 As with the report, this recommendation is supported, but the Australian Greens fear that, if implemented only for skilled migrants, it would further anchor the categories of “haves” and “have-nots” in the agenda. Australian immigration …
The Australian Greens support people who come to Australia under humanitarian visa and family reunification programs by providing them with a path to permanent residence and ultimately citizenship.
That migrants who come to Australia on family visas, refugee visas and humanitarian visas be offered pathways to permanence and citizenship, and that these pathways begin with permanent residence upon entry into Australia.
Chain migration, here we are!
The best recommendation from the report concerns raising the minimum wage that “qualified” temporary visa holders must be paid from the current appallingly low level of $ 53,900:
The committee recognizes the role that the current artificially low skilled temporary migration income threshold plays in reducing the attractiveness of Australians to employment over temporary visa workers and recommends that the temporary skilled migration income threshold be increased at the rate that it would have been if it had not been frozen in 2013 and that future increases are indexed, as was the previous practice …
According to DESE, the Income Threshold for Temporary Skilled Migration (TSMIT), currently set at $ 53,900, is an important safeguard of the Temporary Skilled Migration Program, designed to protect lower-paying Australian jobs and ensure that skilled migrants can support themselves while in Australia.
While stakeholders were in favor of TSMIT to allow temporary visa holders to support themselves while in Australia, the committee heard that the threshold does not reflect current Australian wages. For example, the CUTA argued that the TSMIT, set at $ 53,900, had been “frozen” as of July 1, 2013. NSW unions explained that due to the failure of the TSMIT increase, the employers can employ temporary visa holders with lower pay than Australian workers:
“This is a clear example of why temporary migration facilitates wage stagnation, with employer wage expectations lower for migrants than for local workers. The net result is that positions can be filled by migrants on a 2-4 year basis with a lower starting salary and can then be replaced by one that fits that category ”.
The ACTU also argued that without indexing the TSMIT in line with the seasonally adjusted wage price index, the “TSS visa can increasingly be used to employ temporary migrant workers in occupations that attract a wage. much lower than that of the average Australian worker ”.
The survey is 100% correct on this point. The income threshold for Temporary Skilled Migrants (TSMIT) has been set at the ridiculously low level of $ 53,900. This TSMIT was $ 5,900 (10%) lower than the median income of all Australians in August 2020 ($ 59,800), which includes unskilled workers (see table).
Setting such a low TSMIT explicitly encourages Australian companies to hire low-cost foreign workers instead of local workers, and removes their need to provide training.
The obvious political solution
The simplest solution to ensuring the integrity of Australia’s qualified visa system is to apply a salary floor equivalent to the 75th percentile of weekly earnings ($ 90,480 per year in 2020 – see table above) to visa holders temporary and permanent qualified.
This would ensure that Australian companies can only hire foreign workers for highly skilled occupations, while also eliminating the need for labor market testing or maintaining bogus lists of skilled occupations.
These simple reforms would maximize the economic benefits of skilled migration. Skilled local workers would no longer be underutilized. The complexity of the visa system would be reduced. And raising the quality bar would reduce the overall level of immigration – both directly by bringing in fewer qualified visa holders and indirectly by making it more difficult for other temporary migrants (e.g. foreign students) to transition to a qualified permanent visa.
Labor is expected to adopt these reforms as policy for the next federal election.