The Federal Government may be preparing to bring in tens of thousands more skilled workers to fill gaps in Australian workforces, including aged care.
While the figures are yet to be confirmed by the Government, the Sun Herald newspaper reported over the weekend that the annual migration intake could be raised from 160,000 people to between 180,000 and 200,000.
The number of skilled migrants is generally 70% of the overall figure, meaning as many as 140,000 new skilled workers could boost the aged care, education, health and other workforces.
Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor, told Nine changes could be made to enable migrant workers to start working in their field earlier, rather than needing to complete a full Australian degree or qualification.
However, he stressed standards wouldn’t be dropped for workers joining aged care in particular.
“When we’re talking about jobs that will be looking after people in care, we have to be extra careful, frankly.”
Last month, the Government confirmed it would be prioritising permanent visa applications from skilled foreign workers to address workforce shortages in the aged care sector.
Minister O’Connor said it was important that skilled migrants were not the only option the Government looked at to address workforce issues, and that there would also be a focus on training the local industry and the broader issues.
“We’ve got a big job ahead to address the skills crisis but Labor will do more to train the local workforce and crack down on the exploitation of foreign workers,” he said.
“We will support new energy jobs, get more women into work and reverse the decline in apprenticeship completion rates.”
Increasing the number of migrants allowed into the country is set to be a big topic of conversation at the Government’s jobs summit in a few weeks.
The summit will be attended by businesses, unions and political leaders and held in Canberra on September 1-2, 2022.
A spokesperson for Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil told the Guardian that Labor would not make a final decision on lifting the cap on the number of migrants until after hearing from unions and businesses at the jobs summit.
The spokesperson did confirm that the Government would “always prioritise jobs for Australians” and that any migration intake would be considered “alongside” local skills and training.