Australia may cut visas for low-skilled tech workers

07 February 2006

Australia's Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone is considering measures to cut the number of less-skilled technology workers entering Australia.

Senator Vanstone is looking at ways to better define skills categories in the tech sector to improve targeting of migrants with skills in short supply in Australia.

The measures being considered include a tightening of the points system used to grant visas to overseas students studying IT in Australia.

Senator Vanstone is understood to be finalising a submission to Cabinet that seeks to revise the way tech workers are treated under the general skilled migration program.

If the measures are approved by Cabinet, an announcement is expected by the end of March.

The tech sector has been a difficult area for Immigration, with high unemployment among less skilled technology workers but chronic shortages in some specialties.

A report by immigration expert Bob Kinnaird published last month finds that 30 per cent of hi-tech graduates were looking for jobs in the sector a year after graduation.

His report finds that high unemployment among graduates is due largely to many overseas students studying technology in Australia being granted visas on graduation.

Immigration would not comment on possible changes to the general skilled migration program yesterday, but acknowledged that the technology sector was a particular focus.

"An evaluation of the general skilled migration visa has been commissioned," a department spokesman said.

"This evaluation is looking carefully at the labour market outcomes of former overseas students in general, and of tech graduates in particular."

The spokesman said the department had taken steps to reduce the number of visas issued to less skilled technology workers.

Immigration is known to be unhappy with the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations over the employment data it provides, which is used identify skills that are in high demand.

Senator Vanstone commissioned her own report from a group of labour market academics.