SkillSelect: How occupation ceilings are calculated; accountants and chefs with integrity concerns

Freedom of Information requests throw up some extraordinary things sometimes. Lately, there has been a flurry of document releases, which can be found on the Department of Home Affair’s website.

One was particularly interesting. A request was made for the policy behind the SkillSelect occupation ceilings. Occupation ceilings are a cap on invitations issued for a particular occupation for Subclass 189 – Skilled Independent visas, and Subclass 489 – Skilled - Regional (Provisional) visas when an applicant is sponsored by an eligible relative. Ceilings are recalculated and reset at the beginning of each programme year, which runs from 1 July to 30 June. They have not applied to any other General Skilled Migration (GSM) visa, including the Subclass 190 – Nominated visa, or a 489 visa if a State or Territory nominates the applicant since July 2014, with one exception.

Occupation ceilings are calculated by obtaining the total number of employment figures for the occupation’s Unit Group (defined in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations) from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and multiply it by an agreed amount, which is currently 6 per cent. Despite this calculation, each unit group has a minimum of 1000 invitations. Of course, only applicants who nominate an occupation on the relevant Medium and Long‑term Strategic Skills List can receive invitations for these visas.

For accountants and chefs, however, the multiplier was reduced from 6 per cent to 2.5 and 3 per cent respectively from the 2014/15 year. This was done apparently due to integrity concerns. Accountant numbers are further reduced by subtracting the estimated number of visa grants for accountants across the entire skilled visa programme. This is the one big exception. This began in the 2015/16 year, and therefore includes Subclass 186 – Employer Nomination Scheme visas and Subclass 187 – Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visas.

The idea behind occupation ceilings is to ensure the SkillSelect programme is not dominated by a handful of occupations. The same can be said for the pro-rata arrangements for occupations that have enough demand to meet their ceilings, namely, accountants, engineers and IT professionals. The policy document states that this will incentivise this cohort to seek other pathways, such as through State or Territory sponsorship, or through the employer sponsored visa programme.

Considering the policy objectives, a couple of questions arise:

  • What are the specific integrity concerns surrounding accountants and chefs that require a different multiplier? These are never specified; and
  • How are the broader policy objectives being met when a great number of occupations, particularly trades, languish with very little invitations being issued, primarily because they are at a disadvantage because of how points are assigned?

You may wonder why accountants, engineers, and IT professionals have so many professionals wanting to apply? This is a discussion for perhaps another time.