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Worries over impact of foreign talent on Australia’s tech jobs put to rest

Local tech industry welcomes a new report from the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia which found that migrants have not had a negative impact on wages or participation rates of Aussie workers

Australia may have made a mistake in axing the 457 temporary migration visa, according to new research.

A report from the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (Ceda) found that concerns over temporary migration might impact wages or prospects for local employees were largely unfounded.

Using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistic, Ceda has found that recently arrived migrants have not had a negative impact on the wages or participation rates of Australian-born workers.

In some cases, an increase in migrant concentrations in certain levels of qualification and experience was shown to be associated with a positive impact on wages and employment.

Recognising that international skills are required to ensure Australian enterprise remains competitive and innovative, Ceda has called on the government to rethink its Temporary Skills Shortage visa (the replacement for the 457 visa) and simplify the process for would-be employers.

Urgent action is needed in certain areas such as cyber security. According to the report, while Australia will need 18,000 more cyber security workers by 2026, only 500 such specialists graduate locally each year. International skills are needed to plug the gap.

Australian Computer Society (ACS) president Yohan Ramasundara welcomed Ceda’s findings and recommendations. “Skills shortages are real, particularly in areas of technology development. If these gaps are left unaddressed for any length of time, the Australian economy will stagnate,” he said.

“As revealed in ACS’s Digital Pulse 2018 report, Australia will need an additional 100,000 ICT workers over the next five years just to keep up with demand. That’s an average annual employment growth rate of 2.3%, compared to the 1.4% annual growth rate of the broader workforce.

“Skills shortages are real, particularly in areas of technology development. If these gaps are left unaddressed for any length of time, the Australian economy will stagnate”
Yohan Ramasundara, Australian Computer Society

“We risk backsliding on our technological progress due to a lack of skills, with the issue particularly pressing in Australia’s startup scene where the shortage of qualified workers remains the number one issue experienced by startups,” Ramasundara warned.

But it is not just startups that are starved of tech talent. A survey of 160 Australian CIOs conducted by specialist recruitment firm Robert Half found that 93% support Ceda’s findings, and are willing to hire foreign talent to help them overcome skills shortages. CIOs said temporary workers help with international expansion, add skills diversity and help reduce talent churn.

David Jones, senior managing director at Robert Half, added: “Technology is recognised by most Australian business leaders as a key growth driver, especially when it comes to competing on the international stage, with more companies seeking top IT professionals who can implement new technologies and drive change.

“The Ceda report shows that international talent can play an immense role in helping to equip our IT industry with the skills that support business growth. The rapidly increasing demand for IT roles, such as cyber security experts, ERP [enterprise resource planning] consultants and software developers, is exceeding supply in the local market, which means companies should consider all staffing solutions available to them, including recruiting qualified IT professionals from overseas.”

That said, Ramasundara noted that while attracting global talent was important, it should not come at the expense of local workers.

“Temporary visas are part of the mix of measures needed to address the nation’s chronic IT skills shortage, so ACS agrees with Ceda’s call to develop a long-term approach to temporary skilled migration that contributes to meeting Australian industry needs.”

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