Outcomes of the Jobs and Skills Summit 2022

Monday 17 October 2022

Anne O’Donoghue
Immigration Solutions Lawyers, Sydney, New South Wales

Diane Markantonakis
Immigration Solutions Lawyers, Sydney, New South Wales


On 1–2 September 2022, members of parliament, trade union figures and council officials, to name a few, came together to work constructively on the challenges and opportunities facing Australia’s labour market and economy. This is notably in the wake of the global economies recovery post-pandemic, where states and countries alike have turned to an imminent focus on the workforce to rebuild their economic shortfalls caused by the enormous effects of border closures and isolation orders on the workforce and key industries.

In the lead up to the Summit, Australia’s unemployment rate stood at 3.4 per cent and is currently at a 48-year low. With more than 480,000 job vacancies, many employers are struggling to find and retain suitable workers. Both Treasury’s pre-Summit Issues Paper and National Skills Commission show the most in-demand jobs are in nursing, disability care, accounting, retail and hospitality. A focus on these key sectors, and the creation of accessible jobs, for both the local and international worker market are key to addressing these issues.

Job Summit results

The information below comes from the Australian Government’s Jobs + Skills Summit Outcomes document.[1]

Immediate actions

The government’s announced increase in the Permanent Migration Program planning to 195,000 in 2022–2023 gained attention, given that it hopes to address the critical skills shortage. However, this was possibly outshined by the announcement of AUD 36.1m (approximately $24.08m) additional funding to accelerate visa processing and resolve the monumental backlog. These two immediate actions were discussed at length prior to the Summit, as these are the most pressing issues affecting the labour market and its need for skilled workers.

The government will also further increase the period of work rights given to recent graduates with select degrees in areas of verified skill shortages by two years, enabling them to strengthen their post-qualification skills and experience. Similarly, Student and Training visa holders will continue to have their work rights unrestricted until 30 June 2023, which will inadvertently alleviate the skills and labour shortage, at least until current visa backlogs are dealt with, and further skilled migrants can be granted visas.

With regard to long-term solutions, the government has partnered with states and territories to provide a AUD 1bn ($0.67bn) one-year National Skills Agreement which will provide additional funding for fee-free Technical and Further Education (TAFE) in 2023, while simultaneously speeding up the delivery of 465,000 additional fee-free TAFE placements, with 180,000 places to be delivered the following year.

In addition, the government is to implement a Digital and Tech Skills Compact, to deliver ‘Digital Apprenticeships’ which will support workers earning while they learn in entry-level tech roles.

Lastly, the government will work to improve disability employment outcomes through the implementation of a Visitor Economy Disability Employment pilot to deliver place-based employment outcomes by connecting small businesses, employment service providers and jobseekers with disabilities. Moreover, the government signed a Memorandum of understanding with the Business Council of Australia to develop an Economic Initiative Pilot aimed at increasing employment and improving career pathways of people with a disability.

Areas for further work

Specified in the Jobs and Skills Summit Outcomes Document made available by the Treasury, the government is working towards embedding a role for Jobs and Skills Australia’s analysis of skill shortages in setting priorities of the Skilled Migration Program. It is also considering policies to address regional labour shortages and how to improve small business access to skilled migration.

The Document states that ‘the Government will conduct a review of the purpose, structure, and objectives of Australia’s migration system to ensure it meets the challenges of the coming decade’.

The government will also progress work to:

  • assess the effectiveness of the skilled migration occupation lists;
  • expand pathways to permanent residency for temporary skilled sponsored workers;
  • raise the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold following broad engagement on equitably setting the threshold and pathway for adjustment;
  • reform the current labour market testing process following consultation with unions and business;
  • bring forward a package of reforms to address migration worker exploitation during 2023; and
  • examine the potential for industry sponsorship of skilled migrants.

Our conclusions

The wide range of personnel which attended the Summit was a fundamental factor in its outcomes. With community representatives making up 14 per cent and trade unions accounting for a quarter, there seems to have been an innate focus on representation, for a variety of interests to be heard. The importance of having a variety of representatives, to be able to have had a seat at the table, in terms of migration and skills shortages, is the ability for business and unions alike to express their concerns surrounding which sectors need to most attention in assisting their businesses post-pandemic.

With the increase in foreign skilled workers, eager to use their experience, skills and expertise in Australia however, despite the Summit, in the immigration space, we find that the real solution is simply to act now. With the loopholes presented to migrants, who look to Australia as a prospective country to which to migrate, whether for study, work or both, the Department of Home Affairs has the ability to make the visa process for prospective migrants as seamless as possible, so as to not deter those due to complicated requirements and restrictions. There needs to be urgent reform in the processing of visas. This finally is an acknowledgment of the problems within the Home Affairs Department, which some say has lost its purpose.