A recent stirring of the debate over occupations being removed from the Skilled Occupations List (SOL) has again reared its head, this time centred on the possibility of accounting, IT and engineering jobs getting the chop.

The latest annual report from the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) which identified a number of occupations being considered for removal from the SOL has fuelled media speculation that a radical overhaul could be imminent, similar to what occurred in 2010 when a number of VET-assessed occupations such as cooking and hairdressing were removed from the list, sending many international graduates and students into a panicked frenzy.

However in our opinion, the chances of these highly-skilled occupation types being completely removed from the list is unlikely for several reasons.

Firstly, the international student market is a major component of Australia’s economy. Even after a significant decline in recent years for a variety of reasons, education-related travel services remain as our fourth largest export,  and largest non-mineral related earner.

Peak industry bodies such as the International Education Union have warned the government that the economic repercussions of completely removing these occupations from the list would extend far beyond the labour market, by significantly reducing international enrolments to Australian degree-providers.

“Many segue into accounting once they find their feet and work out the finance and tax systems,” said IEAA executive director Phil Honeywood.

“Accounting is the professional end game of a business degree.”

With accounting alone making up around 12% of the international student market and bringing in somewhere between $600 million-$2.5 billion into the national economy each year, it’s unlikely the government would be eager to make any changes which could negatively affect such a major stream of revenue.

Secondly, the Federal Government has much better control over the General Skilled Migration program than it did back in 2010.

The introduction of SkillSelect in July 2012 has given the Department of Immigration a new and powerful mechanism for them to manage the number of applicants that can apply for a visa at any one time. The new process means that rather than employing the very blunt approach of completely removing the occupations from the list, the department is far more likely to simply reduce the occupational ceiling to what they consider necessary to meet industry demand.

Finally, despite the AWPA report’s findings that there is a surplus of accountants and similar financial professionals in the Australian market, conflicting evidence which suggests that there is still significant demand for these professions within the industry does exist.

In a recent joint submission, major accounting bodies CPA Australia and the Institute of Chartered Accountants bodies quoted data gathered by the Department of Education, Employment and Workforce Relations (DEEWR) and Deloitte Access Economics, which showed forecasts of ongoing positive job prospects for those in the financial sector.

“Labour market conditions for accountants are tight and getting tighter,” the accounting bodies said about the effect of skill shortages on the industry.

“Accountants are projected to rank amongst the most highly sought after occupations over the short, medium and longer term.”

However despite all these reasons, it is impossible to predict exactly what decision the government will make. If you are working within one of these occupational groups and are worried about the changes, Migration Solutions would encourage you to lodge your application prior to July 1, when any changes made to the SOL would come into effect.

Anyone seeking further details about the possible changes to the General Skilled Migration program is encouraged to book an appointment with staff at Migration Solutions for more information.

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