ACS president Edward Mandla said the group's policy on the impact of skilled migration programs on the ICT labour market -- released today -- aimed to "assist in better aligning migration programs for ICT workers with the current realities of the Australian ICT job market".
Mandla said reductions in the number of recent ICT graduates allowed in through the General Skilled Migration Program -- part of the permanent residence program -- should be sustained until;
- the market can absorb the level of ICT graduates from Australian universities;.
- the intake to ICT courses stops declining and begins to increase and;
- the unemployment rate for ICT professionals falls to levels in line with that of all other professionals.
However, Mandla was not prepared to say what the overall reduction in ICT immigration should be.
The ACS claims better migration decisions could be achieved by using a new category to assess recent ICT graduates applying for permanent residency. The Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA), the ACS said, should add a "Migration Occupation in Oversupply List" under the skilled migration program, whereby negative points are awarded to applicants whose occupations are listed.
"An alternative would be to have greater granularity on the Skilled Occupations list for ICT occupations/specialties so that specific ICT job specialties can be removed or added," the ACS said.
"We cannot ignore the evidence, both hard and anecdotal, which points to a significant negative impact of the current skilled migration program on the local ICT labour market -- particularly for Australian graduates," Mandla said. "We also cannot close our eyes to possible abuses by certain sectors of the industry that may disadvantage fair competition".
ACS recommends that DIMIA collect and publish information on the skill set and specialisation of 457 (temporary business long stay) visa applicants to determine any mismatch between skills in short supply and those in oversupply.
Mandla is also calling for a mandatory assessment for 457 visa applicants to verify their skills set.
For time-critical applications, the ACS recommends temporary entry be granted on condition the sponsor sends the applicant back home should the asserted skills not support the result of the skills assessment.
"The goal of any migration system is to be sufficiently flexible to respond to the demands and needs of the time -- and clearly those needs change," Mandla says. "We currently face some oversupply of workers in areas such as programming, computer analysts and graduate level positions -- and we need to be able to improve the monitoring of migrant intake in these areas to allow the industry to catch up," he said.
The ACS also wants DIMIA to publish regular data on actual salaries paid to 457 visa holders who are in ICT occupations, comparing it to DIMIA-approved salaries.
The ACS also wants DIMIA to disclose data on an annual basis that would enable the industry to see to what extent 457 visa holders move between different organisations.
Employers sponsoring 457 visa ICT professionals would be required to sign a declaration they were not displacing an Australian incumbent. The declaration would be in force for six months -- three months prior to and three months after hiring.
Mandla told a briefing this morning: "We currently have no publicly available information on what people are actually getting paid.
"We don't know who are sponsoring these people, and wouldn't that be an incredible bit of info to find out who is sponsoring these people and what projects they are working on.
"We can finally dispel all concerns on whether they are being used to undercut on big contracts".
"There is no skills testing so we don't actually know whether we need all 457 visa holders that are coming in," he said. "There is no labour market testing and as a result 35 percent of 457 visa holders at the moment are programmers and we certainly know programming is a skill we don't currently require in Australia".
Skills assessment for ICT applicants under the General Skilled Migration Program is presently undertaken by the ACS. The society "does not perform any migration gate keeper role and it has no role in determining whether or not an applicant can migrate to Australia," it said.
However, Mandla said today the ACS was interested in taking on the role of gatekeeper for testing the ICT skills of 457 visa applicants.
"Where that testing comes from is up to the government to decide. We have the skills to be able to contribute on this area.....we certainly have the right people to suggest what that test should be. Whether we should administer or not is up to the government. If the government does change the system, we would have interest in doing that," Mandla said.
The policy will be presented to the Australian government in 10 days.