COVID-19 delays releases of Skilled Migration Occupation List – leaving aged care providers short on overseas-born staff

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SBS is reporting that changes to the List – which could have seen aged and disability carers, nursing support workers and personal care assistants prioritised – have been put on hold because of the pandemic.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment had identified aged care and disability areas as areas aged where there are skills shortages in Australia and recommended to Home Affairs that the List be revised.

It had been due to be released in March, but a Department spokesperson said in a statement that the scheduled changes have been delayed “in light of the economic and labour market impacts arising from the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Combined with the border closures to international students – traditionally a source of aged care workers – and the workforce situation for providers in the immediate future looks worrying.

The Government did put in place arrangements to support temporary visa holders to stay in work in critical sectors including aged care.

International students who work in aged care can also work more than 40 hours a fortnight during the pandemic, but these measures only apply to existing workers in their existing roles – and will not provide a new pool of workers coming from overseas.

Law firm Baker McKenzie has forecast that the economic downturn here will result in an ‘Australians first’ approach to jobs.

“This will result in an increase of scrutiny on positions nominated under employer sponsored visas. We expect that the Department of Home Affairs will take a similar approach to that observed after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC),” they write.

While aged care is not expected to attract the same level of scrutiny, the issue leaves providers with the question: how to appeal to Australian workers who may not have considered aged care an option?

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