Skilled Migrants Creating Probs: Study

AAP, April 29, 2008

Skilled migrant workers from non-English speaking countries granted visas to help Australia’s skills crisis are adding to the problem they were meant to assist, new findings show.

Less than a third of the migrants coming to Australia on skilled workers’ visas are working in their field, a report by Monash University researchers has found.

Almost 213,000 people moved to Australia as skilled migrants between 2001 and 2006, and while the majority of those from English speaking countries went on to fill professional or managerial positions, just 29.3 per cent from non-English speaking countries did the same.

“They’re not contributing to the skilled workforce but they’re contributing to urban population growth and housing pressure,” research author Bob Birrell told Fairfax.

Prof Birrell and co-author Ernest Healy have called for a freeze on skilled migration, while the government concentrates on using bridging courses to bring the migrants up to the standard required by their professions.

The report said anecdotal evidence suggested employers regarded accountants from non-English backgrounds as technically capable but held concerns about their communication skills, Fairfax reports.

“The biggest problem is poor English and the lack of occupational experience,” Prof Birrell told The Australian newspaper.

“It also raises questions about courses that are being reduced in demand or complexity to cater for overseas students.”

Data used in the reports predated changes to government policy including work experience for former international students and an increased number of employer-sponsored visas, Immigration Minister Chris Evans said in response to the findings.

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