Australia and the USA Compared
Edited by John Higley, John Nieuwenhuysen and Stine Neerup
Chapter 6: Immigration and the Labour Market in Australia
Santina Bertone* In Australia the recruitment of skilled migrants has been a central feature of the migration programme since at least the late 1980s. A detailed points test, modelled broadly on the Canadian version in the 1970s, gives priority to applicants who are young, well educated, English literate and qualified for high-demand jobs in which local skills are in short supply. The points test was considerably tightened in 1997 after the election of the conservative Coalition government (Hawthorne 2005). Not only principal applicants, but also concessional family applicants (distant relatives) were required to meet the test. In the ensuing decade the implementation of mandatory English language testing and rigorous overseas qualifications screening effectively ‘closed the gate’ on applicants who were thought to be ‘at risk’ of unemployment or poor integration within the Australian labour market. The figures for permanent settlers bear out this increased focus on skilled migration. By 2002 the majority (or 58 per cent) of permanent migrants entering the country were skilled, with this figure rising to 70 per cent (out of a total intake of 190 000) in 2008 (Kelly 2008). Skilled migration has also been the dominant feature of Australia’s relatively recent temporary migration programme. Introduced in 1996, a 457 (long stay) subclass temporary visa, similar to the U H1B in the US, has allowed increasing numbers of skilled migrants (defined as ranging from trades qualified up to tertiary educated) to enter and work for a sponsoring employer for up to four years. The visa is...
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