Immigrants to fill skills gaps

Overseas students with key IT and accounting skills were likely to exploit gaps in the education system and seize elite jobs from less-skilled Australians, according to a new study.

An analysis completed by Monash University's Centre of Population and Urban Research said the Federal Government was likely to draw on a contingency reserve and admit an extra 8000 migrants in 2001-02.

The contingency would allow in more Australian-trained students from overseas, who currently took up the bulk of university places for in-demand courses such as accountancy and information technology.

"This is a good thing," report author Professor Bob Birrell said, pointing out the students were filling skill gaps in the economy.

"But by doing so they are papering over the cracks in Australia's domestic training system," he warned.

Professor Birrell said the Government should be doing more to create and fund new university and college training places for locals who aspired to elite occupations.

But instead successive Labor and Coalition governments had placed a cap on funding.

Overseas students were now beginning to plug the skills gaps, helped by immigration concessions, including allowing students from overseas to apply for permanent residency without first returning home.

Professor Birrell said, with the 8000-place contingency reserve likely to be filled, levels of migration including humanitarian and other visas would probably hit 105,000 in 2001-02.

He said that would make next financial year the largest intake of new migrants since the early 1990s when former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating began scaling back places. -- AAP

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