The Australian Parliament is once again examining the various migrant work programs, on this occasion specifically looking at the impact of the programs on the labour market and whether changes are necessary to improve the employment opportunities for Australian citizens and, if so, how could this be achieved. The Parliament has called for interested organisations to provide their views on these matters. The ANMF provided a submission which is available here.
In a country such as Australia, that has historically embraced migration, it remains challenging to ensure the rights of migrants and Australian citizens have a degree of balance, fairness and certainty and that adequate protections existing for all parties.
For its part the ANMF has always supported the movement of nurses and midwives. Both professions have a strong tradition of international collaboration, the nurses and midwives moving around the globe to gain further training and different clinical experiences. There is also clear merit in international exchange and diversity, as well as the economic benefit of remittances and transfers in technology.
Our union continues to favour permanent migration but recognises there is a place for temporary skilled migration programs to meet short term and unforseen skilled shortages.
Our acceptance and the need for temporary skilled migration is based on the firm view that appropriate policy and regulatory settings should discourage employers accessing offshore labour without first investing in training of local workers, undertaking genuine testing of the local labour market and that there are safeguards for protections for both local and overseas workers. In practice, this means that the ANMF wants employers to be required to genuinely look locally for their nursing and midwifery labour before going offshore.
While the ANMF continues to support migration, our union, along with most nursing and midwifery professional and regulatory authorities, are increasingly concerned of the negative impact the high numbers of temporary migrant workers are having on the employment opportunities of domestic graduate nurses and midwives.
It is the ANMF’s view that the deregulation of temporary migrant worker programs, which have effectively gifted employers with the ability to employ as many offshore nurses and midwives they wish, is reducing the employment opportunities for local graduates.
And while it remains difficult to accurately determine the exact impact of these programs, the number of temporary migrants with work rights is rising at a time when thousands of nurse and midwifery graduates continue to complete their degrees only to face unemployment, underemployment and job insecurity.
This was confirmed in early 2015 by an ANMF survey of graduate nurses and midwives who had successfully completed their studies in 2014. The survey found that over a third of graduates were jobless and those who did find employment worked casually and wanted more hours.
Unfortunately the questionnaire responses revealed a number of standard responses by employers who utilise temporary migrant labour to new graduate applications that included:
- no offer of employment due to lack of experience;
- without completion of a ‘new graduate program’ can’t get work;
- lack of jobs available for new graduates;
A more comprehensive report on the questionnaire forms Attachment 4 to the ANMF submission referred to above. While migration is not the only reason that graduates find it difficult to secure employment, it remains a fact that the ongoing inability of large numbers of new local graduates to find work is unfair, it represents a structural barrier to effective workforce planning and, may have serious consequences for the provision of care in the years ahead.
The ANMF considers the failure of our economy to provide work for new graduates at a time when employers continue to access large numbers of nurses and midwives on temporary work visa arrangements demonstrates a disconnect between the current policy environment that makes possible access to offshore labour when an Australian worker is not available to fill a position and the available supply of new graduates to our health, aged care and community services industries.
While maintaining our support for permanent migration we will be urging the Parliament to support appropriate changes to regulation that would strengthen the requirement for employers to utilise local workers, including new graduates, before going offshore.
Senior Federal Industrial Officer