This paper provides an overview of both permanent and temporary skilled migration to Australia and outlines some of the recent changes that have been made specifically to address labour market concerns and encourage more 'demand-driven' sponsored skilled migrants.
The establishment in 1945 of Australia’s first government department dedicated specifically to immigration is considered to have been a world first. Since then, approximately seven million permanent migrants have settled in Australia through either the Migration Program for skilled and family migrants or the Humanitarian Program for refugees and those in refugee-like situations.
The emphasis of Australia’s Migration Program has evolved from its original focus of attracting migrants simply to increase Australia’s population, to an emphasis on attracting skilled migrants in order to meet Australia’s labour needs. As the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) notes:
- Today, the goal of immigration, settlement and citizenship policy is no longer seen in the simple terms of opening a gate to help populate the nation. It is about building Australia’s future through the well-managed entry and settlement of people. Policies and programs aim to both manage complex migration flows to and from Australia, while optimising their economic and social impact in the national interest.
As a result, while Migration Program numbers are at similar levels to some of the intakes in the past, the balance of the program is now quite different. Over the last decade more places have been allocated for permanent skilled migrants than any other category. In May 2012, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship announced a planned intake for the 2012–13 Migration Program of 190 000 permanent migrants with the majority of places allocated to skilled entrants (129 250 places in the skill stream, 60 185 places in the family stream and 565 special eligibility places for former residents).
The growth of temporary skilled migration to Australia over the last decade has also been significant. However, it is important to note that Migration Program figures issued by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) only include the number of visas issued for permanent residence—temporary workers are counted separately and are not included in these figures.