Mar 22, 2023

Productivity Commission: latest report pushes more security for migrant workers but cops criticism

22.3.23 productivity commission HC

The Productivity Commission has released its latest report, pushing for better conditions for migrant workers filling much-needed job gaps like those working in aged care, but it has been met with criticism.

The Commission made some recommendations for the Federal Government relevant to immigration policy such as visa amendments and improving the path to permanent residency. 

This follows calls from Catholic Health Australia (CHA) for aged care workers working via the Pacific Australia Labour Migration (PALM) scheme to be eligible for sponsorship and for the cumbersome visa application process to be streamlined to help fill workforce shortages.

Former Productivity Commission chairman, Peter Harris, has urged the Government to submit the latest report to National Cabinet but immigration experts have already begun poking holes in these recommendations.

Independent Australia columnist and former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration, doctor Abul Rizvi, criticised the commission in a recent op-ed.

Recommendation 7.4 from the Commission addresses meeting the needs of human services without stifling wage increases.

They suggest that the Federal Government introduce a pilot of a special permanent visa subclass for aged care workers which should be subject to the current Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) and include a condition that the applicant remains employed in the relevant sector for four years.

Dr Rizvi said that while the visa system needed a reform for migrant aged care workers, it needed to be considered on a “comprehensive” scale.

“There is a need to reform how the visa system deals with shortages of aged care, disability and childcare workers but this should be done on a comprehensive basis rather than the limited examination of this issue that the PC appears to have undertaken,” Dr Rizvi wrote.

Recommendation 7.5 revolves around improving temporary migration and pathways to permanent residency, a challenge many migrant aged care workers have pushed for to keep their home and their job in Australia.

The Commission suggested that the Government should amend settings for temporary skilled migration to increase their duration to six years, subject to continued employment with a sponsoring employer, with the ability to move to a new sponsoring employer under the same visa. 

“This appears to be another instance of the [Productivity Commission] having done little in-depth examination of this issue,” Dr Rizvi said.

“Extending the duration of temporary skilled visas is a pointless exercise as these can already be extended onshore in most cases.”

Last month, CHA proposed the PALM scheme should involve training and work experience for Pacific migrants working in Australia to support workforce demands and to better develop a future skilled workforce in partner nations. 

They are also advocating for a health and care worker passport to simplify compliance checks and decrease visa application costs and processing times.

The next National Cabinet meeting will be held next month.

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