Australia should introduce a new skilled migrant visa as part of coronavirus recovery, report finds

Noble Horvath

Australia should capitalise on tighter migration restrictions in place across the world and promote skilled migration as part of its coronavirus recovery, an industry report has found.  A new study from the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), released on Monday, has urged the federal government to introduce […]

Australia should capitalise on tighter migration restrictions in place across the world and promote skilled migration as part of its coronavirus recovery, an industry report has found. 

A new study from the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), released on Monday, has urged the federal government to introduce a new “intra-company transfer” visa to assist multinational businesses in expanding their operations to Australia.

The report also found Australia’s success in managing COVID-19 had made the country an attractive option for international students and skilled migrants, but issues with the system needed to be fixed “over the next few months” to reap the full benefits.

“We should use this period to improve on our skilled migration system to ensure that when the borders open up again, Australia is the destination of choice for the best and brightest,” CEDA chief economist Jarrod Ball said.

“While many countries will try to impose permanent migration restrictions in the wake of COVID-19, Australia should resist such policies and promote migration as part of the national economic recovery.”

An ongoing Senate inquiry into temporary migration, established before the pandemic, has previously heard submissions calling for migration to be a critical part of Australia’s recovery.

Australia’s net migration rate is set to drop by 85 per cent in the 2020-21 financial year, and is forecast to strip up to $50 billion from national income this year and next.

Last week, the government announced a new priority skill list to lure specific temporary migrants to Australia, including nurses, doctors, construction managers and software engineers.

Those who fall under the 17 designated categories will be prioritised for a travel exemption allowing them to enter Australia, but will still be required to complete the 14-day supervised quarantine at their own expense. 

The CEDA report also called for JobKeeper and JobSeeker benefits to be extended to temporary migrants, many who are out of work and unable to return home due to border closures.

At the beginning of the pandemic, in March, more than 2.17 million temporary migrants lived in Australia, the report said.

The government’s lack of support for this group was insufficient, it read, compared to New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom, which have all extended their wage subsidy programs to temporary residents.

“Australia should do the same without delay,” the report said.

There have been widespread calls for greater support for temporary migrants, many who say they’ve been forced into unemployment and homelessness as a result of coronavirus lockdowns.

A survey of more than 5,000 temporary migrants conducted by Unions NSW, released last month, found 65 per cent had lost employment as a direct result of COVID-19, with 43 per cent reporting skipping meals as a result.

The Select Committee on Temporary Migration will deliver a report on the findings of the inquiry in December.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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