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Australia’s immigration minister, Senator Chris Evans, announced an overhaul of the Australian general skilled migration system. The point system for permanent residency is supposed to be based on the needs of Australian labour market even though the current reality seems to be the opposite. Due to the previous list of preferred skills, Australia became home to an intensively growing community of low skilled workers like cooks and hairdressers as well as accountants and hospitality students. In the meantime they are lacking highly skilled employees especially in engineering, mining and the health sector. The new policy would focus on highly skilled labour forces such as engineers, nurses and doctors.
The changes intend to have an effect on the list of “in-demand occupations”; on the existing points-based-test-system for evaluating the skills required; on visa limitation for specific occupations; and on the priority skill list for having an option to prioritise suitable applicants in the process. According to the recently adopted changes in the required skills set, around 20 000 applications have already been refused because of the lack of relevant English knowledge and the qualifications which are not considered to be in demand any longer.
According to the Chief Executive Universities Australia, Dr Glenn Withers, the academic sector has hopes to see the relevant occupations in the new Skilled Occupation List in order to ease the application for permanent residency for international graduates. The potential loss of PhD students in the academic sector could be another aspect for the reform. (See ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, January 2010). If Australia really intends to attract and retain the “best and brightest” they need to apply effective changes in favour of the academic sphere as well.