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Tue, Mar 17, 2009 - Page 10 News List

Crisis-hit Australia slashes number of migrant workers

AFP , SYDNEY

Australia will slash the number of foreign migrant workers it accepts by 14 percent to safeguard local jobs as the global economic crisis fuels rising unemployment, the government said yesterday.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans announced the first cut in 10 years to the number of skilled migrant visas issued by Australia after the government warned that the slowing economy could send joblessness soaring to seven percent.

“We’re going to cut [the program] from 133,500 to 115,000, so that’s about a 14 percent cut,” Evans told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

COMPETITION

“We don’t want people coming in who are going to compete with Australians for limited jobs,” Evans said, explaining that the country’s economic circumstances had been radically transformed by the world economic crisis.

The number of foreign skilled migrants will be cut by 18,500 for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, which starts in June, from a total number of 133,500 in 2008-2009.

The reduction in the permanent skilled migration program will bar entry to foreign bricklayers, plumbers, carpenters and electricians for the foreseeable future.

The government removed hairdressers and cooks from Australia’s list of critical skills shortages late last year, but since then the economy has slowed further.

The latest cuts will remove a swathe of other occupations, most of them linked to the building and manufacturing trades that have been badly hit by the slowing economy.

“That’s where we’ve seen a drop off in demand, some major redundancies,” Evans said, adding that further cuts may be made when the national budget is unveiled in May.

PRESSURE

The Australian government is under pressure to act against the rising tide of job losses after figures released last week showed the unemployment rate had risen to a four-year high of 5.2 percent.

Employers will still be able to bring in foreign trades people by sponsoring them under a special visa for temporary migrant workers, provided they can prove that the labor cannot be sourced in Australia.

Building industry bodies, the national opposition and trade unions all said the move was warranted given the deteriorating economic conditions that have impacted on growth and employment.

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