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How the Skilled Migration system is working for regional Australia’s labour shortage

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) today announced the release of a comprehensive report on the state of skilled Information and Communication Technology (ICT) migration in Australia, with findings based on a survey of 2,303 ICT skilled migrants held between July 26 and August 10 last year. The ACS Skilled Journeys: Navigating IT Migration in Australia Report provides an in-depth analysis of the experiences, challenges, and contributions of skilled ICT migrants.

Key Findings:

  1. The ACS Skilled Journeys: Navigating IT Migration in Australia Report highlights skilled ICT migrants have high employment rates in Australia, with over 90% finding jobs and 80% within the IT sector, challenging the narrative that skilled migration leads primarily to gig economy roles.

  2. Skilled ICT migrants face hurdles such as complex migration processes, workplace discrimination, and visa issues impacting job searches, with over half reporting visa and work rights as obstacles.

  3. Regional Australia benefits from visa rule changes, with an increase in migrants living outside major cities, though long-term retention is challenged by job availability, prompting calls for policy reforms to support migrant integration and career opportunities.

ACS Chief Growth Officer, Siobhan O’Sullivan, said, “This success story runs counter to the popular narrative that gig economy work is the inevitable outcome of Australia’s skilled migration system. When it comes to the IT workforce, the vast majority are finding fulfilling roles in the right fields.

“Today’s report is proof of the valuable contribution skilled migrants make to our country; helping fill the critical shortage of IT professionals in Australia, especially in a time when the tech industry is facing unprecedented demand for skilled talent.”

Geoff Purcell, Chief Digital Officer at North Queensland’s James Cook University, added: “The Australian Government’s Skilled Migration plan is a beneficial initiative designed to bolster our economy, address critical skills shortages and enhance our global competitiveness.

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“By introducing streamlined visa pathways, such as the Skills in Demand visa and simplifying immigration processes, we are making Australia an even more attractive destination for talented individuals worldwide.

“These reforms are not just about filling jobs; they’re about driving innovation, supporting regional development, and ensuring our migration system is responsive to the dynamic needs of our economy.”

The survey follows last November’s Billion Dollar Benefit report which highlighted how skilled migrants can help address the nation’s chronic skills shortage, particularly in regional areas.

Siobhan O’Sullivan continued: “The latest survey and November’s report illustrated the opportunity for regional employers at a time when skills shortages are deeply affecting local economies and businesses. Skilled migrants can fill a critical gap in the workforce and we’d like to help employers embrace that.”

A tough path to Permanent Residency, but worthwhile

However, the report also sheds light on the challenges faced by these migrants, including the complexity of the migration process, negative experiences with employers, and instances of discrimination. Over half of the skilled ICT migrants reported that their visa and work rights hindered their job search, highlighting the need for policy reforms to streamline visa processes and foster a more inclusive work environment.

Regional Australia is benefiting from the changes to visa rules implemented in 2019: 27% said they were residing outside of Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane up from only 18% in 2017.

However, the proportion who said they would remain in a regional area for more than 5 years or indefinitely was only 43%. Analysis of responses suggested job availability was a key factor that determined where migrants ultimately settled.

In response to these findings, ACS advocates for several key policy changes, including clearer pathways to permanent residency for international students completing Australian qualifications, more support programs to aid migrants in their job search, and enhanced measures to combat discrimination in the workplace.

Despite these challenges, the majority (83%) of skilled ICT migrants consider migrating to Australia a good decision, with a strong willingness to recommend migration to others.

ACS Chief Growth Officer, Siobhan O’Sullivan, concluded: “This survey is the first in an annual series which aims to help policymakers, employers and skilled migrants understand the dynamics and outcomes for those from overseas who are looking at building a career in the Australian ICT sector.

“What this research reveals is that for many migrants, regional Australia just doesn’t have the opportunities for career progression that they want. That’s something we need to address at the policy level.”

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