Australia: Minister urges states to increase skilled immigration

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Australian Immigration Minister Chris Evans is urging states and territories to increase their use of state-sponsored skilled migration to meet labor market demands.

"There is the capacity within the Federal Government's permanent skilled migration program for states and territories to sponsor overseas skilled workers in occupations in demand," Evans said.

Evans noted that the government recently added an extra 31,000 skilled migrant places to the 2008-09 Migration Program in an effort to help employers in Australia deal with skills shortages. In total, skilled migration makes up 133,500 places in the Migration Program.

"I will be encouraging the states and territories to increase their use of state-sponsored migration to better link skilled workers to the economic needs in their jurisdictions," Evans said. He said that the government would consider providing "greater flexibility" for states and territories under the sponsorship program to enable them to sponsor more skilled migrants.

According to Department of Immigration and Citizenship figures, state and territory sponsored skilled migration only makes up 10 percent of overall skilled migration into Australia in recent years. In comparison, employer sponsored immigration makes up 20 percent.

Skilled workers coming to Australia under independent skilled migration visas -- the visa of choice for most individuals looking to live and work in Australia -- continue to dominate the program at over 50 percent.