KPMG has joined the COVID vaccine passport push to break Australia's labour shortage.
KPMG has joined the COVID vaccine passport push to break Australia's labour shortage.

KPMG joins vaccine passport push

The Australian government should remove barriers to foreign workers taking jobs in regional Australia and make it easier for skilled workers from Hong Kong to stay in the country while examining the practicality of a "vaccine passport" scheme to safely fill a labour shortage developing as the economy recovers from Covid-19, according to KPMG.

In its submission to the newly-minted parliamentary inquiry into Australia's skilled migration program, the big four advisory and accounting firm says Australian businesses are "feeling acute labour shortages in areas historically filled by temporary visa holders that have been restricted from entry due to border closures."

 

 

KPMG Head of Migration Services Belinda Wright said a crucial short term reform would involve reviewing the potential application of a "risk-based" approach to restarting immigration, potentially through the use of a "vaccine passport" scheme of the kind rolling out in Israel and the EU and supported by Qantas.

"Several countries and the International Air Transport Association, are developing 'vaccine passports' and we would advocate the government conducts a review into how we could apply a health risk-based approach to international travel, based on vaccination status," Ms Wright said.

However, with high-income countries representing 13 per cent of the population but accounting for more than half of Covid-19 vaccine sales, Ms Wright said the scheme would involve assisting vaccine distribution in lower income countries.

"We appreciate this could further disadvantage lower income nations, so it is vital this is combined with working with our international partners to increase and speed up vaccination distribution to those countries," she said.

Remove barriers

Other recommendations made by KPMG involve removing government barriers to foreign workers, particularly in rural Australia, where industries including agriculture, hospitality and tourism are still facing skills shortages despite temporary schemes facilitating the entry of some temporary workers.

Ms Wright said the government should consider temporarily removing the labour market testing requirement for employer-sponsored visas, which require a business seeking to fill a position to advertise the position domestically first, as well as removing old-age limits and lowering English language requirements.

But in the longer term she would like to see reforms to Australia's global talent scheme that grants working and residency rights to high-skilled individuals, as well as additional measures that would attract younger workers by making it easier for them to achieve residency.

"It is vital that skilled migration into Australia is increased," she said.

"We are proposing a range of improvements to the global talent scheme and the business innovation and investment visa categories so that they are adaptable and responsive to market changes.

"The current lengthy processing times and program restrictions are a disincentive to investors who want to start or acquire an interest in an Australian business."

Change salary cap

Among the recommendations are lowering the global talent scheme's salary cap below $153,600 as it is "limiting" to businesses, particularly in agriculture and education, making post-study work rights easier and last longer for international students, and further adding permanent residency points in circumstances where the course and subsequent work of a student is in an area with skill shortages.

"Looking a few years ahead, the lack of international student intake during the Covid pandemic will significantly impact our economy, as these are the skilled workers of the near future," Ms Wright said.

"So we would urge that a range of measures is considered to make Australia more attractive, including making post-study work rights easier and last longer."

Ms Wright also said the Hong Kong nationals should be afforded concessions when applying for work visas.

"If the government wanted to attract a larger cohort of skilled migrants from Hong Kong, a visa class that provided additional concessions could be considered," she said.

Originally published as KPMG joins vaccine passport push



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