Minister says Australia needs unskilled overseas labor

22 July 2008

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Australia may need to let in more unskilled foreign labor to meet critical shortages in some industries, according to Immigration Minister Chris Evans.

Evans told the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy that the agricultural, hospitality, and aged care industries are demanding access to unskilled and semi-skilled workers from overseas.

"The question of whether or not temporary and unskilled foreign labour is needed to sustain our economy has been answered," Evans said. "Our economy is already reliant on that labour source."

He stated that in some cases, businesses may be forced to shut down if they cannot fill occupations with help from overseas.

Currently, Australia's immigration policy grants preference to skilled migrants under schemes such as the 457 temporary foreign worker visa and the General Skilled Migration program.

Recently, the Australian government increased the number of people allowed under its skilled migration policy for the current financial year by 31,000. This brings the total number of skilled migration places to 133,500.