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While the Australian Government has the mantra of putting Australians first in our national job market, the changes to the countries visa system could send our workforce backward. Uncertainty around the future available to them may cause skilled persons to look to other countries, taking their knowledge with them, resulting in a ‘brain drain’.
While the drain is apparent in that people may be less willing to migrate to Australia, there is also a flow on effect to Australians.
There is an element of knowledge transition and teaching that these skilled migrants bring to the workforce. While Australians may currently lack the skills that our workforce desires, those bought in from overseas can assist in training the Australians in the workforce, pulling them up to standard and improving the workforce as a whole.
Should skilled persons be put off coming to Australia due to the visa changes, we will lose this essential element of passing on the skills.

Research Positions and Universities

The most popular job search in Australia is actually for the post of research fellow, accounting 13.6% of foreign job searches in the areas of science, research scientists and research associates.
However, these positions which were once an area of interest are now struggling with the changes to the Australian visa system. A number of scientists have rejected job offers from Australia’s top medical research institutes, looking overseas to countries which have a more stable permanent outlook.
Australia has a long history of working alongside skilled overseas researchers and scientists, with an example being Ian Frazer, who came from Scotland and invented the papilloma virus vaccine.
The new caveat for two years’ experience in order to take a position of a post-doctoral researcher could also be an issue, with universities stating that this is usually the point of a researchers career when they do their most cutting edge research.

Senior Positions

In late 2013, then Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull appointed an American as head the National Broadband Network (NBN) to ensure that the network stayed on track.
That American, Bill Morrow, is one of the hundreds of skilled foreign workers whose future is now unsure as a result of the changes.
There is an argument from Canberra that the 457 visa program had become a bloated, proxy path to permanent residency. As a result, for some workers permanent residency is unachievable under the new TSS system.
If a position falls under the short term stay list, the skilled worker will not be eligible for the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) Temporary Resident Transition Scheme, and instead will have to rely on Direct Entry, which they might not be eligible for.

Alternative Routes

As Australia offers a less secure future, the result is a ‘brain drain’. People are looking to other countries, such as New Zealand and Canada.
Australia needs to reassess the issue, and find a solution. There needs to be balance between enticing skilled workers to Australia, and ensuring that appropriate Australian workers are employed where possible. For now we rely on the knowledge transition between those from overseas to our Australian workers, with the hope that a brain drain will not leave us with a skill shortage in the coming years.

Purnima Kabra