White paper identifies accountancy as a profession with a huge mismatch between migrant qualifications and where they actually work.
‘Most qualified accounting migrants wind up working elsewhere’
The government has singled out accountants as an occupation where almost 80 per cent of skilled migrants fail to find work with their chosen skill and will target system reform as part of its employment white paper released yesterday.
The white paper, entitled Working Future, said nearly one-quarter of permanent skilled migrants were working in a job outside their chosen profession and the problem was most evident in accounting, with three categories (including audit) making the top 10.
While migrant doctors, physiotherapists and dentists all experienced close to full skill alignment, migrant accountants had one of the highest levels of mismatch with fewer than 25 per cent working in the profession.
Migrant women also had greater difficulty getting qualifications recognised and finding work that matched their skills.
“Australia’s migration program is not fit‑for‑purpose,” the paper said. “There is significant scope to better align migration with domestic skills needs … there is also scope to better use the skills that migrants bring to Australia.”
“Too often migrants work below their skill level or the system takes too long to allow them to work in areas of need.”
The paper said a responsive migration system would be important to complement the domestic workforce and achieve the government's reform priorities of a future-proofed labour market, productivity growth, and job security.
CPA Australia senior manager Gavan Ord said he was supportive of the white paper’s objectives and that migration would always be necessary for the accounting profession.
“We are experiencing a shortage of accountants in Australia. Employers can benefit greatly from the experience of new migrants, even if they require a little more time to adapt to the Australian market,” he said.
“Moving to a new country comes with so many challenges. The need to find secure work quickly is usually a high priority. This can result in accountants taking jobs outside their area of expertise to make ends meet when they first arrive.”
“We will continue to work with the government to better align migration with domestic skills needs in the profession.”
The paper attributed the disparities in migrants’ employment outcomes to discrimination and unconscious bias faced by migrants from employers, as well as regulatory hurdles including requirements for top-up qualifications and the domestic recruitment processes. To address the skill mismatch experienced by migrants, the government said it would improve its targeting of skilled migration and collaborate with states and territories to direct migrants to where they were most needed.
With 50 per cent of international students working low-skilled level jobs for which they are overqualified, the government planned to improve pathways to work in higher-skilled roles. “The current system does not best equip international students and graduates to meet Australia’s skills needs,” the paper said.
“There is an opportunity to reform migration settings to better support international students to reach their potential in the labour market. This includes making sure they have the right training and support to find employment and can follow efficient pathways into in-demand areas.”
Finally, the government said Australia’s temporary skilled migration system would be overhauled to ensure specialised, highly skilled workers have a “fast and simple pathway” to participate in the job market.
“Ensuring Australia becomes the destination of choice for migrants with in-demand skills can be progressed by replacing outdated, inflexible occupation lists that do not meet our skills needs, with an improved new core skills occupation list … constructing a flexible and responsive occupation list offers the opportunity to better reflect the current state of the labour market and identify the skilled migrants that are most needed.”
CA ANZ group executive advocacy Simon Grant praised these initiatives and noted that demand would only increase for accountants.
“With accounting, audit and finance professionals still in critical shortage in Australia, and demand expected to increase in the next five years, we are particularly pleased to see the white paper focus on … better target skilled migration, realising migrants’ employment potential and improving employment outcomes for international students,” he said.
Further reforms are set to be outlined in the government’s Migration Strategy, slated for release in late 2023.
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