Special visa pathways to beat ECEC workforce shortages?
The Sector > Jobs News > Special visa pathways for ECEC outlined in leaked circular provided to unions

Special visa pathways for ECEC outlined in leaked circular provided to unions

by Freya Lucas

October 13, 2023

Skilled migrant workers who come to Australia on temporary visas in response to workforce shortages would get a boost to their minimum pay rates each year, according to a leaked circular provided to unions and sector/industry groups as part of a broad migration overhaul to be announced later this year, The Age has reported. 


Special pathways would also be created for areas of high workforce demand according to the circular including early childhood education and care (ECEC) in a bid to address ongoing concerns about the number of workers available in these sectors. 


The discussion paper reportedly proposes annually indexing the temporary skilled migration income threshold (TSMIT) as well as the high wage threshold for specialist migrants “to maintain the relative position of the thresholds within the wage stack, and to maintain the integrity and original intent” of each migration pathway.


The proposed (alleged) changes come against the backdrop of recent developments in the skilled migrant space, including the government’s decision in July to increase the base rate of pay of skilled migrant workers from $53,900 to $70,000 in a bid to eliminate the presence of vulnerable and exploited workers. It had the dual aim of also curbing the net migration level, which was 454,000 in the year to March.


Should they progress, the proposed reforms would create a three tier system for temporary workers: 


  • A lower income stream for frontline workers (such as aged care, and possibly ECEC) 
  • A middle income tier for ‘in demand’ skills (ECEC may also fit here) 
  • A specialist stream for higher paid professionals.


When contacted by The Age about the circular, the government declined to comment. Journalist Angus Thompson noted that the discussion paper does not clarify whether the annual increase to the core stream would be tied to the wage price index or another measure, such as the national minimum wage increase, and that the paper says the upper threshold of the pay range within that pathway would be increased at the same time, but that limit is yet to be set.


The discussion paper reportedly also says there is a “strong understanding” migrant workers will be needed in the medium term to fill shortages in essential sectors and industries, despite moves made to improve wages and conditions in those sectors, including current bargaining reforms.


“For example, these arrangements would be sector-specific, given the different skill and labour needs across aged care, child care and disability care,” the paper allegedly says.


Access Mr Thompson’s story here

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