IT tops Australian migration list

Computing professionals permanently migrating to Australia are the nation’s single largest source of skilled migration, again raising serious questions about how the Department of Immigration Multiculturalism and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) calculates its permanent migration targets and temporary skilled visa numbers.

According to the latest migration statistics released by DIMIA, “computing professionals” now account for nearly a quarter (22.39 percent) of all new skilled migrants.

On raw numbers IT accounted for 8829 of a total of 39,427 skilled, permanent migrants in 2004-5. The figure represents a modest decline of 4.5 percent from 9244 IT migrants in 2003-4.

The latest statistics lay waste to sustained calls from industry groups such as the Australian Computer Society (ACS) for DIMIA to adjust IT migration intake levels much faster to help ease the severity of cyclical labor market corrections.

In April 2005, ACS president Edward Mandla warned slow immigration policy reaction to rapidly changing local IT employment demand was directly contributing to market distortions and also encouraging abuses of the temporary visa system.

DIMIA has denied the migration system is open to abuse.

The latest DIMIA IT migration figures also differ noticeably from those released by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations’ (DEWR). Released on the same day (Wednesday, July 27, 2005) as DIMIA’s IT figures, the employment department’s latest “jobs prospects matrix” presents lack luster IT employment market confidence, rating the chances of getting a job in IT as merely “average” to “good” – as opposed to “very good” for accountants and bookkeepers.

However, the same matrix also lists unemployment among computing professionals as “above average”, with IT manager unemployment listed as “average”.

The DEWR statistics also reveal the government believes there to be some 150,400 “computing professionals” employed in Australia at present, a group which is supposedly growing at an average rate of 9400 souls a year (or 6.7 percent).

If contrasted against DIMIA’s latest statistics, skilled IT migration in 2004-5 accounts for a massive 93.9 percent of growth for “computer professional” jobs in the same sector for the year. Both departments share the same data pool to make policy decisions.

However, the DIMIA data again fails to reveal the statistics for the country of origin of computing professionals migrating to Australia. It also does not list the proportion of permanent migrants who have previously held an IT skills-related visa in another migration category – such as skilled temporary entry like the popular 457 visa subclass.

Figures Computerworld obtained from DIMIA in May revealed 10,252 subclass 457 visa grants were issued to ICT workers from an unspecified time in 2002 until January 31, 2005.

Computerworld has repeatedly requested country-of-origin figures for IT-related 457 visas after concerns were raised the program was being used as a mechanism for unscrupulous operators to bring in heavily discounted IT labor at the expense of local jobs.

After initially suggesting the extraction of such data was a task too burdensome for its computers, DIMIA has since conceded the information can be obtained over the course of time – but has not yet released the 457 country-of-origin numbers.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone last night said he would look into the department’s progress into producing the 457 numbers.

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