CFOtech Australia - Technology news for CFOs & financial decision-makers
Story image
Australian skilled ICT migrants boost regional tech sector
Wed, 6th Mar 2024

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has published a new report indicating that skilled Information and Communication Technology (ICT) migrants are closing a critical gap in the country's tech sector, with regional Australia seeing notable benefits from recent changes to immigration rules. The report, titled 'The ACS Skilled Journeys: Navigating IT Migration in Australia', features extensive findings from a survey of 2,303 ICT skilled migrants conducted last year.

As per the report, employment rates amongst skilled ICT migrants in Australia are impressively high, with over 90% securing jobs, and 80% of these within the tech industry. This state of affairs challenges prevailing misconceptions that skilled migration primarily culminates in piecemeal work in the gig economy.

Siobhan OSullivan, ACS Chief Growth Officer, said, "This success story runs counter to the popular narrative that gig economy work is the inevitable outcome of Australia's skilled migration system. When it comes to the IT workforce, the vast majority are finding fulfilling roles in the right fields."

OSullivan added, "Today's report is proof of the valuable contribution skilled migrants make to our country; helping fill the critical shortage of IT professionals in Australia, especially in a time when the tech industry is facing unprecedented demand for skilled talent."

The research also revealed that ICT migrants face significant hurdles, including complex migration processes, workplace discrimination, and difficulties related to their visa status that adversely affect their job search. Over half the respondents reported that their visa and work rights were obstacles.

Changes to visa rules have had a marked impact in regional Australia, with an increased number of migrants choosing to live outside of the major cities. However, long-term integration is limited by lack of job availability, sparking calls for policy reforms to enhance migrant integration and long-term career opportunities.

Geoff Purcell, Chief Digital Officer at North Queensland's James Cook University, spoke on the benefits of the Australian government's skill-focused migration plan stating that "These reforms are not just about filling jobs; they're about driving innovation, supporting regional development, and ensuring our migration system is responsive to the dynamic needs of our economy."

Despite the challenges, a substantial 83% of skilled ICT migrants consider migrating to Australia a good decision and would recommend it to others. Yet, in regional Australia, only 43% expressed preparedness to stay in their current locations for over five years or indefinitely, citing limited job availability as a significant deciding factor.

In response to these findings, ACS puts forward a number of policy recommendations, including clearer permanent residency pathways for international students finishing Australian qualifications, increased support programs for migrants' job search, and more robust measures against workplace discrimination.

OSullivan concluded, "What this research reveals is that for many migrants, regional Australia just doesn't have the opportunities for career progression that they want. That’s something we need to address at the policy level."