Why Australia’s Skilled Migration System Is Failing – Will the UK and US Take Note?

Yves here. The idea of preferring skilled immigrants over other ways to allow them to enter has become popular in the UK, as the Tories have been talking up using an Australian-style points system to screen immigrants. At a high level, it screens for people who are young, educated, and have good language skills. The Trump Administration has also started advocating the idea of restricting family-based migration policies and preferring “skilled” immigrants.

I’m not surprised to see the Australian system hasn’t worked out as well as expected. The trend in the US, and I wonder if it has been taking hold in Australia, is for jobs where employers are recruiting, to overspecify the requirements, as in to look for someone who has done precisely the same job at a very similar employer. Companies are not willing to train. For instance, as we’ve mentioned often, for at least the last 15 years, Slashdot has regularly had articles by new computer science grads lamenting that they can’t land a job because there are no entry-level positions and the oldsters confirm that this is the case. More generally, in the US, the idea that there is a shortage of graduates with STEM degrees is also a myth.

Now consider some additional inconvenient facts. The first is that the general patten is that immigrants who do not have a corporate sponsor or a strong personal network where they land to help them get placed are more likely to take a step down socioeconomically even if their income in cash terms is higher than it would have been in their home country. For instance, many Jewish professionals who fled the Nazis wound up becoming doormen or equivalent.

More specifically, the factors that operate against even skilled migrants landing good jobs are:

1. Most job openings aren’t made public. When I was in Australia, I was told that 80% of the hiring took place without the position ever having been given to a headhunter or hiring agency or otherwise advertised. That sounds about right.

2. Employers don’t tend to hire people they can’t assess. As I wrote in a Conference Board Review article:

Conservatism can lead to biased outcomes. There is a simple reason (beyond narcissism) why people like to hire in their own image: They understand and can readily evaluate their backgrounds. That’s why the old-school tie isn’t necessarily a cabal dedicated to self-promotion. Recruiters can probe course selections and extracurricular and social activities, and have an informed view of the candidate’s character. An interviewer simply won’t have the same comfort level with a candidate when he can’t calibrate her accomplishments.

Columbia University professor Amar Bhide coined the phrase “novelty aversion” to describe how investors shun ventures that are unprecedented—notably, both Federal Express and Cisco found it difficult to secure early funding. It isn’t much of a stretch to extend his logic to hiring and promotion. Both venture cap- italists and corporations are in the business of picking winners—the former attractive investments, the latter talented employees.

Some examples from the hoary old days when I was involved in recruiting: English was a tough major at Yale and a “gut” at Harvard. Harvard Business School would accept the producers of the Hasting Pudding Show straight out of college (something HBS was generally disinclined to do) because the Hasty Pudding Show was a very large undertaking (big budget plus always having a short run in Bermuda, and getting the show there was a mammoth operational task).

The bigger point is that if you need granular knowledge of US colleges and grad schools to make a good assessment of a candidate (or at best kid yourself into thinking you are making a good decision), how is anyone going to feel anywhere near as comfortable with a foreign applicant, where they will at best have only a dim sense of whether their schools are well regarded and are not likely to have much idea about the rigor of their course of study?

3. Most people are averse to hiring people for “skilled” and/or public-facing roles who are less than highly fluent and have no accent or at most, one they regard positively. Consider our post yesterday on how Southerners are treated outside the South.

By Massimiliano Tani, Professor of Finance and Economics, University of New South Wales, Canberra at Australian Defence Force Academy. Originally posted at The Conversation; cross posted from MacroBusiness

Australia’s skilled migration system has helped us attract hundreds of thousands of highly qualified immigrants since 1988. But one side effect of the policy is that we seem to waste many of these skills.

Up to 40% of recent immigrants in Australia are over-educated (having more qualifications than necessary), making it hard for them to find suitable employment. This is almost four times the level of over-education seen in native-born Australians.

The problem could be a lack of coordination between Australia’s migration system and employment policies. The migration system is devoted to supplying immigrants for perceived labour market skill shortfalls but employment policies pay less attention to getting the most out of every immigrant.

As a result we can simultaneously have a skill shortage and qualified migrants who are unable to fill these positions. This often occurs because, for example, they do not have relevant Australian experience.

This is an issue not only for the migrants themselves – who are under-used as employees – but for the rest of Australian society as well. The government receives less tax revenue than it otherwise would have from the migrants, which in turn has implications for public funding, savings, consumption and investment expenditure.

Australia’s skilled migration program favours immigrants with particular characteristics – namely, they are young, university-educated, and English-speaking.

Australia still admits people who do not possess these characteristics, but in streams that are not directly motivated by economics – for example via family reunification or humanitarian visas.

The current system can lead to mismatches between the skills available in the market and those that employers actually need. One possible reason is the lag between the time employers inform immigration authorities about the skills they most need (or envisage needing in the future) and when migrants enter the labour market, which can be years later.

Addressing this gap requires tighter coordination between immigration and employment policies. But this is at odds with the current practice.

Australia’s skilled migration policy is currently informed by employers (who say what skills are needed) but ultimately focuses on population management. Whether new immigrants find adequate employment to use their skills to the full is the responsibility of a different area of government, if at all.

No Australian employer has an incentive to be the first in offering new migrants the local labour market experience they so critically need. This seems especially so for professional jobs that are subject to occupational licensing. For example, migrants get accredited shortly after settlement but if they cannot acquire relevant Australian experience they either delay entering their desired field or move into a different one.

Coordinating Immigration and Employment

Coordinating Australia’s immigration and employment policies could reduce some of this skill wastage.

For example, data on the employment outcomes of recent migrants could be compared to skill shortages identified by employers. This should be carried out jointly by an immigration-employment task force.

This would help to pinpoint the most serious cases of migrant over-education. The reasons could be identified (whether it is because of too many skilled migrants, skills of poor quality, or a lack of demand), and solutions developed.

Using these data, Australian immigration and employment policies could include targets related to migrants’ skills. Doing so would rebalance the current focus of both immigration and employment policies so that Australia more efficiently uses all the resources we have available, and for which it competes internationally, as in the case of highly qualified migrants.

Since 1988, when the points-based system was introduced, Australia has been at the forefront of designing immigration policies that are attuned to the needs of the labour market. Immigration policy has focused on attracting migrants that could be immediately employed.

But the evidence shows we are wasting skills in levels similar to those of countries that do not implement selective immigration policies.

This suggests that immigration policy by itself is not the only tool responsible for migrants’ labour market outcomes. Better coordination between immigration and employment policies is needed if we want to use skills from abroad to fill gaps and become more productive.

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  1. Greg

    That table is really interesting as a New Zealander. The heck are we doing over here?

    I also wonder if the shuffle back and forth of kiwis and aussies over the Tasman has an impact on the over qualification of Australian immigrants – how many are from nz where we’ve done something to bust that measure?

    1. visitor

      See the answer by Winston below. NZ has a small economy, not terribly diversified. I do not remember ever seeing any industrial product from NZ in Europe — exports all seem to be from agriculture/fishery/husbandry (and tourism + cinema).

      On the other hand, when I was dealing with IT outsourcing companies, they had a fair number of competent IT specialists from NZ working for them in Europe.

      I presume the educational and training system in NZ is biased towards producing highly qualified STEM people because of the predominant wisdom that such a workforce is a requirement for a successful, growing economy. Except that the economy of NZ has so few players that count in IT, telecoms, bio-engineering, pharmaceuticals, robotics, electronics, or micro-mechanics that it does not know how to use all the highly qualified personnel it trains. A waste, really.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Its a factor in all small open economies. Ireland also both imports lots of skilled service employees (either as immigrants or as contractors) while simultaneously exporting people with similar skills. I know very highly skilled and qualified Irish people who had to move abroad to work even during a boom period – in a small economy if you have a very narrow set of skills you often have to wait a long time for the job to come up that matches it – its just easier if your search includes the rest of Europe and the English speaking world.

        Likewise, in my current employer we’ve employed consultants from as far afield as Sweden, simply because thats the only place where we could find someone available with the precise level of knowledge and experience we needed.

      2. vlade

        Slightly differnt. Basically, a non-trival part of young NZers want to (at least temporarily) leave NZ. They have two natural advantages – English, and Kiwis are still the only people who don’t need a vist to Oz (even to work). But they still need skills. So there you go.

        Incidentally, there’s plenty of NZ IT companies – some doing genuine world sucessfull products (Xero, Jackson Weta IT part), but a lot of them doing in effect near/out shoring.

    2. Bukko Boomeranger

      “The heck are we doing over here?”

      Making more money. At least in the medical field. I work with tonnes of Kiwi nurses. Every one of ’em says higher salaries are what drew them to this hot, flat, boganified place (so daggy compared to the glorious landscape and better-mannered people of En Zed.) Bigger medical system, too, so there are more opportunities to branch out, like the clozapine program coordinator from Dunedin I met Wednesday. Something like her job didn’t exist on the South Island. I don’t know of any Aussie nurses who went the other way across the Tasman. (But then I guess I wouldn’t, because they’d be over there, and I’m here.)

  2. sadness

    So you’re saying that instead of a company that needs skilled staff & can’t find such in Oz, doesn’t then search overseas & once finding the hunk requests OzGov for his immigration – Rather, OzGov brings in a bunch of iffy brains on the off chance of finding employment just because more’s better? – Yay OzGov.

    This Oz stuff seems to fit in the same category as the supermarket lady today who couldn’t read a label for me because she didn’t have her glasses. Or. The Oz financial blog i used to autosub to but couldn’t unsubscribe because they no longer had an address. Or, why i rarely comment on Oz stuff anymore because sad&funny is beyond a joke.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Ahem, that isn’t what I said or the post said.

      Australia allows “skilled” immigrants (basically well educated and young) who score high enough in their points system to immigrate. They are presumed to be attractive to employers.

      There is a completely different and specific category for companies to hire people from overseas if they can’t find someone in the local market with the right background. Few are hired this way and even then, the pattern is more “XYZ company wants to hire foreign person Q” and then they write the job specs in such a way that no one local qualifies but Q arguably does.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        I came to The Lucky Country on this visa program, but for me it worked in reverse. First I got the job, then the employer sponsored me and paid for the visa. They were required to advertise the position, which I think they did in some tier 3 newspaper, then they could say “they didn’t receive any qualified local applicants”. There were many others in my same situation at this employer. a Fortune 50 multinational.

  3. Ignacio

    If just these skilled, young, handsome, nice taking immigrants could bring a list of clients with them…

  4. Winston

    Canada has a similar problem 40% of skilled immigrants leave within 10 years. This is because both suffer from resource curse. So economy is too small for skilled immigrants.
    Economic tripalium bearing down on Australia as resource curse hits
    The ‘curse’ of the resources boom: could our wealth be our ultimate weakness?
    When majority of public school students are poor, they will not be the consumers that employers need to be able hire skilled immigrants. US economy is due to shrink in future.

    1. cnchal

      Canada has a similar problem 40% of skilled immigrants leave within 10 years.

      That’s about getting a Canadian passport to hang on their belt. Canada becomes their bolthole and rescuer when things get hot where they are.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, anecdotally I know of several people who went to work in Canada over other options for the sole purpose of getting the passport as an option for the future (or for their kids). Mind you, I know several Canadians who have done the exact same thing in Europe – especially back in the mid 2000’s, when the Canadian dollar was very weak relative to the euro.

    2. Bukko Boomeranger

      I’m a skilled immigrant who left Canada because I could NOT get a passport. Not even permanent residency. I’m a hospital nurse, came to Vancouver on an employer-sponsored work visa in late 2009, held a job continuously (I had to, as a condition of my visa. Stop working, get deported.) My hospital system also sponsored me for permanent residency and paid fees/submitted paperwork so I could stay. But the Canadian immigration bureaucracy is a glacial wall of silence when it comes to finding out “What’s happening with my application?” My queries, the hospital’s questions, even submissions by the Employer’s Council of British Columbia (a business group that certifies that yes, this worker is needed, so we’re endorsing his PR application) got NOTHING. Finally, 2½ years after starting the permanent residency red-tape marathon, I got fed up and moved back to Australia in late 2013. (I boomeranged!) Wouldn’t you know it? Two months after I buggered off, my nextdoor neighbour, who was picking up my mail, e-mailed me to say “You got a packet from Immigration saying your residency has been approved.” Too late, Canuckeaucrats! Granted, my anecdote does not equal evidence, but there are lots of reasons why Canada is not retaining technically skilled English-speaking (plus a fair bit of Français in my case).

  5. The Rev Kev

    To fill this discussion out, the 457 visa program also deserves to be mentioned as found on a link from this page. This program is being wound up and replaced (https://theconversation.com/australian-government-axes-457-work-visa-experts-react-76321) due to the problems that arose from it. The idea behind 457 visas was for industries to use it to fill shortages of skilled workers which sounds all well and true but what was happening was that industries were simply using it to recruit new workers so that they would not have to up wages in their workplace or working conditions, even when they did not really need these new workers.
    So, you ended up with thousands (I believe that there is about 100,000 of these visa workers altogether) filling jobs that Australians did not have the skills to fill such as truck drivers and abattoir workers. In fact, I know of a foreign-owned abattoir not that far from here that basically sacked their local workforce and replaced them with these 457 visa workers. As well, it saved those industries from the bother of training workers or investing in apprentices. This of course got a hostile reception from Australian workers who were finding themselves replaced by 457 visa workers or even apprentices who found the work no longer there for them.
    Just in passing, after checking Australia’s skilled migration program, I would say that few of my ancestors would have qualified under this program so most of them slipped in before they thought to close the door. Whew!

    1. animalogic

      “but what was happening was that industries were simply using it to recruit new workers so that they would not have to up wages in their workplace or working conditions, even when they did not really need these new workers.”
      I am congenitally suspicious of many immigration categories.
      I think it is now fairly well accepted that Corps simply want to externalize training costs. Immigrants also represent more …compliant workers.
      Perhaps I’m wrong, but I simply can’t see why a country such as Australia can’t organize its training needs better (this assumes that Gov/Biz actually want to do better….)
      On a more general note, I no longer support the idea of a “big Australia”, ie 35-40 million within a couple decades. Climate change suggests such numbers could have very real negative consequences.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Would you believe that not long ago some were talking about a “Big Australia” with a population of 100,000,000? Nobody was buying into that idea.

  6. Jesper

    I agree with all the points. One slight quibble might be that the system might fail for the migrants but it works well for companies…. (government for the people or?)
    & I suspect the numbers would be even worse if unemployment was to be weighed in (migrants to Sweden are, in addition to being over-qualified for jobs they have, also less likely to be in employment than Swedish nationals)

  7. bwilli123

    I think the points system as you might expect, has been gamed. Immigration has also been abused by the University system to increase the number of ( highly profitable) fee paying students. If you have an acceptance for an Australian University undergraduate course your chances of permanent residence increase dramatically- regardless of the demand for your degree.
    Naturally, the Universities dropped their admission standards to increase profits.
    There have been instances of stand-ins sitting for exams and graduates who cannot read English. One instance of which led to a Pharmacy graduate dosing a patient with the wrong medication, and a subsequent death.( check out ABC’s Four Corners archives for more details)
    From my reading the 457 visa system is a barely examined scandal which neither the Left or the Right are interested in pursuing.
    The Liberal right because of the cheap labour available and the Labor Party alleged “ Left” because ethnicity is sacred.

  8. Other James

    The Australian skilled migration program makes up one component of the broader migration policies that have been pursued by both Liberal and Labor parties over the last thirty years. The other two are high net migration, and the political choice not to invest in infrastructure to match growing population numbers. The first cannot be understood without some recognition of the other two. On top of that, the government also runs a very large short-term skilled migration scheme.

    Over the same period, the Australian government has pursued a policy of expanded tertiary education in a corporatised tertiary education sector.

    This combination has worked very well for the top 10%, giving low cost (if less than stellar) growth while pushing intense competition for jobs up the professional scale. The outcome is the lowest wage and salary growth on record outside a recession, and an accelerated rate of return flowing to the top decile.

    But it is probably not sustainable.

    Firstly, the infrastructure deficit is pushing costs up for ordinary Australians, and they don’t like it. This is reflected in continuing decline in electoral share for the two major parties. Once they drop below 33%, which is where they’re heading, then their hold on power becomes increasingly tenuous.

    Secondly, the infrastructure deficit, along with a raft of reactionary policies to protect the incumbent elite, are stifling new economic opportunities that are a direct opportunity cost on all skilled workers. The most obvious opportunity is the need for investment to change to a carbon neutral economy, but close behind is broader environmental management of the driest continent on earth, and participation in the digital economy .

    Thirdly, the high net migration number drives competition for resources. The elite and newly arrived immigrants have an ‘exploit at all cost’ attitude, the former to build/protect their wealth, the latter to establish themselves in their new country. This pitches them against broader Australian concerns around quality of life and the environment. This division is likely to grow, and under current economic policies will likely involve a transfer of resources from the broader Australian community to this new ‘exploit at all cost’ alliance. The elite deflect criticism of this alliance as ‘racist’ in respect to new immigrants, but I don’t see that holding over the medium term.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This isn’t 100% accurate. When I was getting my visa and then living in Oz (2000-2004), Australia most certainly did not have a high net migration policy. It arguably didn’t even have a low net migration policy. Population growth was low and many people were arguing in favor of that given water scarcity. Businesses were calling for way more migrants because growth.

      I didn’t pay attention as to when the policy changed (after I left in 2004) but the population went from 20 to 25 million from roughly 2005 to now due largely to the liberalization of immigration.

      1. Other James

        I take your point, Yves. The growth in migrant numbers started to ramp up strongly from 2005, and in 2016 along with strong natural growth gave Australia the 2nd highest population increase for the OECD after New Zealand (to which there have been a few comments above),

        Besides permanent migration, there are about four times as many permanent/temporary visas issued at any one time. Some of these visitors have a right to work, and some (for example students) have a right to buy property.

        My main point, and this is from observation in Melbourne, is that competition for jobs and resources like housing are becoming much more fierce. I don’t blame migrants for this; it is the political orthodoxy of ‘more competition’ that degrades quality of life. For young Australians trying to establish themselves, and older Australians who have suffered setbacks (like unemployment, divorce or ill health), times have become much tougher.

  9. PlutoniumKun

    Just to add to Yves comments, I think its a very significant factor in employment that its much harder to judge people from a different cultural background. I’ve been involved over the years with a number of ‘problem’ employees from ethnic minority backgrounds – there have often been mumblings from other workers that ‘oh, they only got jobs because of political correctness, etc’., but I think its closer to the truth to say that warning signs about their qualifications or character weren’t picked up at interview stage because of cultural differences. Its not that it was wrong to employ people from different backgrounds, its just easier to chose the wrong person.

    On the flip side, I know of a now bankrupt but formerly very successful company in which the owner had a policy of only hiring people from his own (largely rural) community. He believed that local loyalty was the best way to recruit and that people could simply be trained in to do more complex work. It was very admirable in a way and he built a major company on that basis. I also know a business/IT consultant who was brought in to rescue that company after a major IT collapse and he was horrified by what he saw as the lack of skill of the senior IT people in the organisation – they were simply out of their depth with the systems they were using, resulting in a near catastrophic loss of data (the company survived that incident, but later collapsed for possibly related reasons).

  10. Alex

    Don’t think we can talk of failure based on just one indicator. There are so many others like how well do immigrants assimilate, whether they stay in the country, their income, crime rate etc compared to those of native born population.

  11. Patrick Donnelly

    Good analysis!

    The infrastructure delay is because the Depression that started in Japan in 1989 and USA in 1999, is just arriving in Oz now. Spend there will increase, smoothing out losses of jobs elsewhere. We are the lucky country, but policy is very closely held.

    The policy delay means all sorts of BS is put up as a reason for the delay, as saying the D word is instant ostracism! Recall however, that we handed out money, in order to avoid a recession. Policy can change very quickly in a country that has been known to dump sitting Prime Ministers readily! The immigration policy is not “failing”. We employ South Korean Doctors etc. to pick fruit and deny them permanent resident status …. So many foreign countries over educate their serfs that we may pick and choose. Actual training matters less to us than attitude. We form relationships and although we use paper to sift for the best, they will not rise unless they fit in.

    Their children will fit in. They are escaping their home country with its attitudes to serfs including 100 year mortgages.

    We are tired of increasing delays on roads and rail, but the economy is doing so well that we still resist death duties and other taxes on capital that will arrive/increase in other economies soon. Retail is beginning to slow to a steady amount, with no growth, given population increases. We are still short of labour and capital, yet we are building new cities, at least in Queensland. Look up Logan, Ipswich etc.

    Economic warfare, by currency wars, predatory tax rates and skilled labour incentives is easy for some countries. With all our natural advantages, no destructive earthquakes, volcanoes or tsunami, “Australia is fair set to advance”.

  12. Altandmain

    Judging from the chart, Canada may be even worse off in this regard.

    The solution is to reduce immigration. Clearly employers are not willing to train and they are willing to falsify claims of a shortage of workers for the purposes of driving down wages.

    There are other consequences. Here in Canada, Vancouver and Toronto are totally unaffordable. I hear Sydney and Melbourne are the same. I’d be totally unsurprised if New Zealand was the same in Auckland.

    The sad thing is that the political system makes that a non starter. I suspect that a party calling for a reduction in immigration would be able to get a higher percentage of the vote than many people might otherwise think.

    Both Australia and Canada suffer from a lack of arable land. They have populations concentrated on narrow parts of their nations. I think that aiming to stabilize the population is a better option.

  13. gordon

    Ross Gittins, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald in September last year: “Over the past 10 years, more than two-thirds of the growth in real gross domestic product of 28 per cent was accounted for by population growth, with real growth per person of just 9 per cent.”


    No Australian political party wants to be held responsible for a recession. Therefore all Australian political parties support high immigration.

    1. The Rev Kev

      And here in Australia, if one of the two main political parties want to short-circuit an argument to do with economics or immigration, they just saying Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

      1. integer

        Don’t forget “growth”.

        Vote one for Jobson Grothe Sydney Morning Herald

        For those who aren’t Australian, Jobson Grothe is “jobs and growth” anthropomorphized. “Jobs and growth” has been the most frequently used phrase in Australian politics for the last half dozen years or so.

        1. integer

          Just to get everyone up to speed, Australia’s premier neoliberal think tank is the Institute for Public Affairs, and Tony Abbott, being the gentleman and scholar that he is, essentially handed over all federal government policy-making decisions to them during his truncated term as Prime Minister, with plenty of input from the Catholic Church of course. Malcom Turnbull is marginally better, but pretty terrible overall, and his hypocrisy knows no bounds. FWIW Bill Shorten is just as bad, and I am of the opinion that Shorten is slightly more vulnerable to influential war advocates (i.e. the f[amily blogg]ing neocons) than Turnbull. Unfortunately, the Labor party has been on a downward trajectory since Rudd was deposed by Gilliard, and now has binding party rules that mean Shorten cannot be removed from the head of the party until he loses another election. Thankfully, Australia is only a marginal player on the global scene.

          1. integer

            Malcom Turnbull is marginally better

            To be fair, Turnbull is better than Abbott; “marginally better” is a significant understatement. Turnbull is, however, somewhat at the mercy of what might be referred to as the Abbott-faction Liberals, some of who are still holding influential positions in Turnbull’s cabinet. A key characteristic of Abbott-faction Liberals is their devotion to the Catholic Church. Also, in the “Jobson Grothe” comment, half a dozen years may have been an overstatement; the Abbott years went by extremely slowly.

            1. The Rev Kev

              Well you have to remember that Tony Abbott was John Howard’s protege after all. He was a bully in his Uni days (http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/bully-tactics-came-out-early-in-abbott-says-former-rival-20120907-25joi.html) and remains so in politics.
              If I had to explain what he was like to an American, I would say that he would slot in seamlessly to the new Republican Party. He was new to the game in that, as a rule, Australian leaders do not tend to be ideologues but more pragmatists but we are getting more and more down the pipeline (no names here) who are idealogues. I have seen some on TV and they literally have a wild look in their eyes.

  14. Summer

    Immigration works best all the way around when large numbers of migrants aren’t FLEEING something, usually war, bad trade deals that have made their country an extraction pit, or some propped up, scummy dictator selling out their country.
    Also, no one talks about the skilled migrants from these countries as being traumatized as a result of what made them flee. People are so busy cherry picking the exception when things work out that they don’t address the added difficulty of someone traumatized trying to come to a new country and be employed.
    When immigration is used as a weapon of class warfare, that also is not the ideal migrant situation.
    What appears to be needed are more places with more sovereignity and less conflict, reducing mass migration.

  15. Bukko Boomeranger

    SO many interesting points this post brings up. As a technically skilled person who immigrated to Australia twice (second time was easier because I had been granted permanent residency after my first foray) I can speak a bit about the medical field.

    Australia trains heaps of nurses. They’re placed in wards all the time where I work. Aside from a few grizzles, most of them haven’t reported any trouble finding jobs when they graduate. Yet the hospital system where I work also recruits planeloads from overseas. There’s a bit of the “familiarity bias” that Yves and the author mention. The recruiter for the psychiatric nursing program is an Irishman, and he regularly takes junkets to Eire to sign up new nurses. Some wards that I go to, the staff is 20% Irish. I have not seen any abuses or over-skilled, under-utlilised workers, except for a few people who were qualified as doctors in their home countries but can’t meet Aussie certification standards.

    What the post fails to mention, but a couple of commenters have touched on, is the rorting of the skilled migration system via education visa abuse. (“Rort” is a fun-to-say Aussie slang word with a meaning similar to the “bezzle” that Lambert and Jim Kunstler like to use.) Higher education institutions, including a lot that are Potemkin fakes, LOVE to bring in foreign “students” because of the high fees they pay. Then they’re shunted to low-skill jerbs at crummy wages and conditions, while supposedly studying. A nationwide scandal erupted last year when the 7-Eleven convenience store chain was exposed as doing this on an industrial scale, mainly with Indian immigrants. Most of the franchise pizza joints I walk by (rarely order from them myself because I’m a good cook) are staffed by Indians. I can’t say for sure, and I don’t want to appear racist, but I wonder how many are semi-willing cogs in an immigration scam. Better a pizza cook in Australia than a tiffin-walla in Mumbai, eh?

    Good selection, Yves, and I will mull over the ramifications of this at my leisure. The one thing I’ll knock the author back for is overlooking the criminality factor that applies to immigration. Aside from Cassandras such as Bill Black, economists don’t make routine crookedness a part of their analysis. The “market” is NOT rational; it’s full of sociopaths. Oz does a fairly good job of cracking down on immigration abuse. The first time I moved here, when I failed to renew my one-year work visa on time (didn’t realise I had to) my hospital said I could not come in AT ALL, beginning THAT DAY, until I got the permit sorted. It was the company, not the government, who enforced the rule, because there is enough respect here for doing things correctly. (Also, it was a government-run hospital)

    Unfortunately, because of regulatory capture of the government by socios, lots of laxity is allowed by companies that don’t want to obey laws. Again, sorry if this comes across as racist, but I’m amazed at how many Asian construction workers I see when I’m riding the tram to work at 0630. My town is a centre of Australia’s apartment-building bubble, and the marquees on several of the downtown towers announce their funding by various Chinese banks. Australia’s current Liberal (i.e. “conservative” party) government hates the strike-happy construction unions. (Shout-out CFMEU!) It’s a two-fer to allow Asian tradies with supposedly impossible-to-find skills in for Asian-financed projects, while at the same time nobbling the unions who supply the opposition Labor party with a lot of its clout. “Skilled migration” is a scam in lots of ways. (But not with me! I earn my money doing a job that most people don’t want, wrangling crazies on psych wards.)

  16. nothing but the truth

    And canada. Oh Canada. Its got PhD immigrants working mopping floors in ethnic stores because they can’t find squat to to do.

  17. p fitzsimon

    So, is the argument presented here that Australia and Canada do not need immigrants. Aside from humanitarian reasons isn’t the purpose of immigration to supply a workforce. Should they use a lottery system that will pick up a random collection of the skilled and the unskilled, english speaking and non-english speaking etc?

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