The Australian government has established an expert panel to undertake a review of the existing regulations applying to employers who wish to bring migrant labour into Australia.
The government committee is primarily investigating claims by some large and vocal employer that there is too much regulation and red tape preventing employers from easily accessing migrants to meet their labour market needs.
This is a concerning development because until now it has been broadly agreed by all political groups that the skilled migration arrangements presume that employers should only seek to use overseas labour when there is no local worker available to fill the position and the regulations are there to ensure that Australian employers do not seek to by-pass their local work labour workforce.
However notwithstanding these arrangements, Australian employers recruit thousands of overseas nurses and mid-wives at a time when many new nursing and midwifery graduates find it difficult to secure employment.
The ANMF has raised these concerns with the government panel urging them to resist any calls for further deregulation that will remove or dilute current obligations that favour the use of local labour. A full copy of the ANMF submission is available here.
We do have concerns about the potential impact of deregulating skilled migration however, the ANMF remains a strong supporter of ethical migration and the fair treatment of migrant nurses in Australia.
Our union has always supported the geographical movement of nurses and midwives. The professions have a strong tradition of its international collaboration with 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.
We recognise that in many cases the motivation of work in other countries is linked to more attractive employment opportunities including higher salaries, better working conditions and improved capacity for career advancement. And increasingly the opportunity to live in a better and safer environment for themselves and their families is an important factor.
The ANMF favours permanent migration but recognises there is a place for temporary skilled migration programs to meet short term unexpected skilled shortages. However, we do not support the continuation of skilled migration in circumstances where locally trained nurses and midwives are unable to find employment.
Unfortunately over the past few years there has been a consistent and chronic underemployment of Australian nursing and midwifery graduates despite the employment of large numbers from off-shore.
And sadly it is the case that an increasing number of new graduate nurses and midwives struggle to find employment in their chosen profession, in many instances rejected by the same employers who use temporary skilled nursing labour from overseas.
The ANMF estimates that:
- In 2013 60% of the Tasmanian nursing and midwifery graduates could not find work;
- In Queensland only around 28% of new nursing graduates secured positions with Queensland Health;
- In 2013 800 graduates in Victoria, 400 in Western Australia and 200 in South Australia could not secure positions.
In our view, the failure of our economy to provide work for our new graduates at a time when employers continue to access large numbers of off-shore nurses and midwives demonstrates a disconnect between the current policy environment that makes possible access to off-shore labour when an Australian worker is not available to fill the position and the available supply of new graduates to our health, aged and community service industries.
Putting aside the demoralising and devastating affect this has on new graduates who are unable to find work after completing a three year tertiary course; it also represents a loss in investment to the education of professional health workers and a loss in the contribution of potential workers to the health and aged care systems. And if not stemmed will represent the lost generation of Australian graduates to our health and aged care sectors.
In preparation of our submission we called on new graduates to tell their own stories and a selection of these have been included in the submission. The response was overwhelming with more than 200 new graduates taking up this opportunity.
Graduate responses confirms:
1. Large numbers of new graduates fail to find employment in their field;
2. Many graduates receive numerous employment rejections, in one case over 70;
3. Most graduates fortunate enough to obtain employment are engaged on a precarious basis through agency, part time or casual arrangements;
4. Many graduates go to extraordinary lengths to obtain work, for example by moving interstate and separating themselves from their families;
5. Most new graduates are saddled with a HECS debt and many believe their university course was a complete waste of money;
6. Most employers named in the responses as rejecting new graduates for employment use off-shore labour.
The government panel is expected to present their report and recommendations by June 2014 which will be available on the ANMF website.
Finally in our continued support for new graduates the ANMF has commenced a campaign titled ‘Nursing Grads Need Jobs!’ Details of the campaign are also available at the ANMF website.
Senior Federal Industrial Officer