The New South Wales government recently announced its ambitious new plan to lure skilled migrants to the state.
Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner announced the O’Farrell government’s intent to seek an increase in the share of state-government skilled migrants it receives annually from the commonwealth.
Whether or not this transpires is entirely at the mercy of the federal government and the Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen.
If the additional allocation is acquired, many of the sponsored visas will be earmarked for healthcare workers, engineers and tradespeople in regional areas.
Commenting on the new strategy to the Irish Echo recently, Mr Stoner said he encouraged Irish workers who possess skills in ICT, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and sustainable environments technologies, to consider migrating to Sydney or regional NSW.
The Deputy Premier made a pitch to Irish entrepreneurs, inviting them to investigate setting up as business migrants in the state. He cited the “experience, international connections, entrepreneurial skills and capital” that such people could bring to NSW.
It is clear that state government’s message is not being pitched at the backpacker contingent, rather, at workers who have built experience in their niche.
These are highly skilled sectors and individuals that Mr Stoner refers to.
It follows that the age profile – and indeed family situation of these potential candidates for migration – is of a different nature to that of recent graduates or those seeking simply to come to Australia ‘to do the year’.
These are candidates that may be married or have children.
The Irish contingent is likely to be drawn from the new wave – those Irish economic migrants who might never have considered leaving the Emerald Isle before 2008, but have been forced to do so by a downward spiralling economy.
The arrival of these migrant mums and dads has played a part in the burgeoning Irish family networks now found in many state capitals.
Yet, the O’Farrell government faces a tough sell to similar people, who are weighing up a potential move.
Cost of living and job prospects are significantly more advantageous in Queensland and Western Australia than in Sydney or Melbourne.
Crucially, no other state, save for the Australian Capital Territory, imposes as punitive a public schooling fee structure on temporary resident parents as does NSW.
Many migrants are unaware of the high costs – up to $5,500 a year – of putting their children through public schools in New South Wales until it comes to time to enrol. The fees can be partially refunded if families decide to up sticks to another state.
As recently as last week, the state government reaffirmed its commitment to the lucrative fee model. The Echo reported last month that it brings in $12m a year.
If the fees remain, then it behooves the government to prominently display them among the migration material it distributes at expos in Europe and puts its name to online.
At present, budding migrants have more chance of finding Alice down a rabbit hole than they do of finding a cogent outlay of the costs.
The information is buried in the bowels of NSW Education international students website (www.detinternational.nsw.edu.au/schools), not the first place migrant parents would look, when weighing up a life-changing move.
Armed with the facts, what migrant parents wouldn’t choose sunny Queensland or laid-back Perth to school their children, especially with an extra $5,500 in their pockets each year?
In this sense, NSW’s new migration strategy is flawed from the outset.
While these fees remain, the state will struggle to prise an entire tranche of potential migrants from the lure of other Australian states.
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