Senator Chris Evans, Minister of Immigration of Australia has announced the new Skilled Occupations list [SOL] today.
It has excluded cookery, hair-dressing, community welfare and other low value trades/skills from this list but it does have doctors, Engineers, nurses, teachers, construction workers, IT professionals and accountants among others. I liked this list and support it fully. I spoke on this matter today and here are the links.
As we all know, Australia’s international education is [or at least, it has been until recently] a significant source of income ie about $15 Billion/year and has been quoted to be the third biggest source of the economy. It has grown dramatically over the last few years. Chinese and Indian students were the backbone of this growth. This growth was more true for the private vocational sector as compared to the University/TAFE sector. It was estimated that about 80-85% of Indian students came to Australia to study in the private sector, most commonly in cookery related courses, hairdressing and community welfare. To cater to the increasing demands, a lot of private schools were opened by entrepreneurs, many of them did not provide proper and good quality of education. Exploitation of students was rampant and unfortunately, the quality control mechanisms were not as active as they should have been. When the problems in this sector were brought out in the open by Indian and Australian media and quality issues were taken up with seriousness by Australian agencies as a result, many of these private schools started to close down, leading to more difficulties to the students.
With the assaults on Indian students and hysterical and often exaggerated reporting by Indian media which damaged Australia’s reputation, Australian agencies finally decided to take the remedial actions to clean this sector. Multiple task forces were set-up and serious reviews were done. It became quite clear that Australia’s international education system has been rorted by many students, some migration agents and some education agents. Some students came to Australia with no interests to study. Even human smuggling has been mentioned as a way to send some so-called students to Australia. Some of these students had poor English, educational and financial backgrounds. False certificates of all sorts and even contract marriages were employed to bring the so-called spouses in many cases.
Many of these students were applying for the PR visa even though they did not have the requisite qualifications to be able to find the employment. They were able to get the PR only because their trades of cookery and hair-dressing were in the preferred list for immigration.There was a serious question of the suitability of these people to become immigrants of this country.
Finally, something has to be done and new skills list is the outcome.
Skills Australia-an independent body has helped bring this list out. This list will be updated annually.
Senator Evans has outlined that Australia’s immigration programme will be demand-driven, not supply-driven. He said that Australia needs teachers, doctors, nurses and IT professionals, not cooks and hair-dressers. He also said that Australia’s immigration programme can not be controlled or driven by international education only. Senator Evans is spot on here.
These changes were overdue but as people say, it is still better late than never.
Australia should attract and encourage the right type of immigrants with qualifications which we need.
International education and PR should not be linked. It was never linked in a legal sense but an expectation of this “link” was created by the marketing agents. It was known to every one including Australian agencies that PR lure was responsible for the spectacular growth of students numbers from India and China. Having said that, these students came to Australia because Australia allowed them.
While I support this new skills list whole-heartedly, I am concerned about the plight of those students who are already here. They and their parents have invested a lot of money-often mortgaged their homes and farms to send them to Australia. They came here with the expectation of PR and this was not totally their mistake. They came here under previous rules and had valid reasons to hold an expectation for PR Visa after completing the diploma.
The current and changed situation has shattered their hopes. This is akin to a humanitarian tragedy for them and their families. It is going to have a very serious ramification for some of them.
I do believe that some significantly fair transitional steps should be taken to consider their situation, provided they meet the English, training and work experience standards. I am generally against retrospective rules and their case is a classical example where it should not be implemented retrospectively.
Is there a case for a fairer transitional steps/strategies in these matters?
While I congratulate Senator Evans for this new Skills list, my view is also in favour of fairer transitional steps in this matter and I believe that there is a very strong case for this approach!
Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/17th May, 2010