Australian businesses believe skills shortage here to stay

THE skills shortage facing many Australian industries was likely to remain a "permanent feature" of the nation's economic landscape, more than 180 businesses told KPMG's annual skilled migration survey.

The survey, which has been running for four years, looks at how dependent various businesses are on skilled migration to source qualified workers, and whether they think that dependence will change over time.

Some 187 businesses and organisations were surveyed this year, from 20 industry sectors, including mining, manufacturing, transport and social services.

Figures from the Department of Immigration show skilled migration under the 457 visa program rose 26.4% between 2010-11 and 2011-12, with some 91,050 workers in Australia under the program at June 30 this year.

While the rise was associated in part with mining projects in Western Australia and Queensland, 25% of businesses surveyed said they did not expect to recruit any more workers under the program in the next year.

But the majority of those surveyed said they still expected to source up to 5% of their total workforce through the program.

And DIAC figures reveal the majority of skilled workers who made their way to Australia last fiscal year came from the United Kingdom, United States, South Africa, Ireland and India.

Ongoing economic problems in Ireland particularly led to a massive 74% rise in the number of Irish migrant workers, up from 5,838 in 2010-11, to 10,135 in 2011-12.

The main reason companies gave for sourcing workers offshore was and "insufficient supply of appropriately skilled workers in the domestic labour market".

Businesses also said the "quality" of local staff was also a secondary reason behind sourcing skilled migrants, but only two of the 187 surveyed said locals' reluctance to work in remote areas was a problem.

KPMG analysts also asked businesses if they were likely to bring in workers under the government's Enterprise Migration Agreements.

While half of all mining businesses said they knew they were eligible, less than half of those businesses said they were likely to apply for an agreement in the next year.

The need for professional technical and qualified scientists made up more than 25% of those skills businesses sought from overseas, followed by mining at about 13% and information media and communications at just over 10%.

While the majority of survey respondents said skills shortages were having a "minor impact" on their business, 60% believed it was likely to remain a "more or less permanent" feature of the Australian economy.

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