Drastic calls to tackle Victoria’s worker shortage have been made ahead of the federal budget later this month.
Peak business body Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) unveiled its wish list on Monday, including plans to battle the worker shortage crippling multiple industries.
Top of the agenda is to allow more flexibility in the visa conditions for migrant workers so they can work in other areas of need when there is a pressing demand.
This would result in the likes of a migrant nurse employed to work on the ward of a hospital to also be able to work in an aged care facility.
The plan would recognise more foreign qualifications, work experience and training of migrant workers, particularly in areas with critical skills shortages.
“The federal government needs to urgently relax visa conditions to enable fast-tracked migration,” VCCI said in its submission.
“The healthcare industry is an example of where this change would help address shortages and alleviate constraints within the migration system.
“We ask the federal government to prioritise increasing access to a competitive international skilled labour force and address the acute cost of living constraints affecting our economy.”
Victorians in multiple sectors were profiled in focus groups as the plan was drafted, with workers detailing the impact plummeting migration levels have had on industry.
“We neglect to realise that there has been migration of international labour back for other countries, but the conditions have not been right to attract migrants back to Australia and Victoria,” one woman said.
Another woman from regional Victoria said people in her local area had less options in tough times.
“I’m from a regional community, and (tourism) is important. Those smaller communities have less options,” she said.
“When tourism closes, the whole town may close. It is not like you can just go and pick up an office job having been employed at the local cafe for the last 10 years.”
VCCI also called for a way to increase Melbourne’s international student intake after the demographic plummeted during the pandemic.
“International students play an important role on the supply side of our labour market. More than 35 per cent of Victorian businesses in the tourism, visitor services, events and hospitality sectors were at least partially reliant on international students to fill skills shortages before the Covid pandemic,” VCCI said.
“As of August 2022, the cumulative impact of almost three years of disincentivising students to come to Australia as well as border closures have caused movement of workers away
from hard-hit sectors and acute skills shortages.
“Skills shortages have continued to hamper business growth and cannot be resolved through domestic supply in the short to medium term.”
The federal budget is scheduled for October 25, with big-ticket items including whether the stage 3 tax cuts will be addressed.
The tax relief package would reduce the 32.5 per cent tax rate to 30 per cent and abolish the 37 per cent tax rate entirely from 2024.
This would result in all income earners between $45,000 and $200,000 paying only 30 cents in tax on their earnings.