Page last updated at 07:16 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

Australia cuts migrant job intake

Slow sign at roadworks, Sydney Australia 3 Mar 09
Construction and manufacturing are slowing in Australia

Australia has said it will cut the number of skilled foreign workers it accepts by 14% to safeguard local jobs.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans announced the cut, the first by the country in 10 years.

Mr Evans said the government did not want to admit people who would compete with Australians for limited jobs amid the global financial crisis.

Unemployment is rising in Australia, after years of economic growth fuelled largely by mining exports.

One of the main countries likely to be affected by the cuts is the UK.

Every year many British bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers and other people with trades decide to swap life in the UK for life in Australia.

Construction slowdown

"We're going to cut (the programme) from 133,500 to 115,000, so that's about a 14% cut," Mr Evans told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The number of foreign skilled migrants will be cut by 18,500 for the 2009/10 financial year, which starts in June, from a total number of 133,500 in 2008/09.

"The economic circumstances in Australia have changed as a result of the global financial crisis," Mr Evans said. "It is prudent to reduce this year's migration intake accordingly."

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

"That's where we've seen a drop-off in demand [and] some major redundancies," Mr Evans said.

Nick Bryant
The announcement confirms what we have known since before Christmas: that Australia does not offer a safe haven from the worldwide downturn

He added that further cuts may be made when the national budget is unveiled in May.

The migrant scheme offers permanent residency to approved skilled workers.

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

Professions such as nurses, doctors, engineers and information technology will be safe, as Australia still has shortages in these areas.

The government removed hairdressers and cooks from Australia's list of critical skills shortages late last year.

Figures released last week showed the unemployment rate had risen to a four-year high of 5.2%. The federal government predicts a jobless rate of 5.5% by June, and 7% by the same time next year.

The government recently announced an Aus$27.5bn (19.6bn) stimulus package, including cash handouts and infrastructure spending, which it hopes will help the economy through the downturn.

Australia's economy has shrunk for the first time in eight years, raising fears that the country may be heading for a recession.

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Straits Times Australia cuts migrants - 10 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Aussie jobs for Aussie workers - 26 hrs ago
Glasgow Herald Australia to cut intake of skilled migrant workers - 32 hrs ago
Taipei Times Online Crisis-hit Australia slashes number of migrant workers - 41 hrs ago
Sydney Morning Herald Skilled migration cuts divide - 42 hrs ago

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