Skilled Migration Occupation List review commenced…major changes ahead?

In a joint media release the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs and the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business announced there will be a review of the occupation lists for skilled visas and invite submission from stakeholders with an emphasis from those in regional areas.

The announcement should not come as any surprise as the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business (DESSFB) has been charged with recommending changes to the makeup of the occupation lists since July 2017 when the government split occupation lists into subclasses, the exception being for general skilled migration visas.

The DESSFB has gone through three previous consultation processes in October 2017, November 2017, and May – June 2018. The largest change to the occupation lists subsequent to these reviews occurred in March this year when 36 occupations were “upgraded” to the general skilled migration occupation list and general practitioners were required to obtain a health workforce certificate for employer sponsored temporary and permanent visas among other amendments.

One wonders whether the upcoming review will produce any substantial change from the piecemeal ones that have occurred since its inception. The promise to regularly review the occupation lists biannually has quietly been buried with contradictions on the availability of an occupation and the need to address skill shortages becoming apparent. For instance, from the DESSFB’s own report the occupation of 271311 Solicitor was not in shortage the last time they analysed this occupation in March 2018 with 2.5 suitable applicants per vacancy and strong growth in graduates, yet the occupation is on the Medium and Long‑term Strategic Skills List for every visa subclass, including independent skilled visas. This make little sense.

Additionally, it should also be asked as to how much more assistance regional areas can receive. The occupation list for the Subclass 187 – Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa is substantial and includes almost every occupation at Skill Level 3 and above except for one: 272211 Minister of Religion, which requires a labour agreement. Presumably the occupation list for the Subclass 494 – Skilled Employer Sponsored Regional (Provisional) visa will be similarly vast.

Perhaps the DESSFB should not shoulder all the blame. The ANZSCO, the classification of all occupations that is compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), has been criticised as being woefully out of date with no review in sight.

Those wishing to express their opinion will be able to provide submission in due course when the DESSFB will begin to accept online submissions.

The traffic light bulletin identifying occupations flagged for change will be published in December 2019 with the review ending in March 2020 and presumably changes made in the weeks after.