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Concern in Australia over changes to skilled worker visa
Call to reconsider visa changes in light of negative 'unintended consequences'
June 2, 2017: There was collective concern expressed amongst members of the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) over the impact of recent changes to immigration regulations. It was agreed that the changes may detrimentally affect Australia’s ability to attract high calibre global talent. The AESC members are drawn from the top executive search and leadership advisory firms across Australia.
“We are collectively concerned that the mooted changes to Australia’s Skilled Worker Visa arrangements will impact access to the global executive talent pool,” said Graham Willis, AESC Chair for Australia. “On a daily basis our members are dealing with the deep executive talent pools that exist within Australia. However, these talent pools do not always offer the depth of executive experience needed to meet the future needs of a business. With executive recruitment now a global story and given rapid disruptive changes in the market, Australian companies must ensure they are globally competitive.”
Graham said there were many times that executive search and leadership advisory firms needed to step outside Australia, tapping into overseas talent or attracting the rich experience of Australians who have built careers overseas.
“The decision by a Senior Executive to relocate-whether for offshoring or onshoring-is not one taken lightly; nor is the decision by Australian companies to employ overseas talent,” he said. “It is significant that the collective view of Australian AESC members this week was that the proposed 457 and 186 visa changes are likely to be counterproductive in attracting the very best executive talent to Australia.”
The comments follow the 18 April 2017 announcement by the Australian Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, and his Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, and reference their proposal that the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457 visa) be abolished and replaced with the new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa. Changes to the subclass 186 visa were also announced-including the extension of age limits. These would set a new maximum age limit of 45 years old for executive-level professionals to obtain 186 visas, significantly restricting Australia’s access to +45 year old top senior executive talent.
“The executive search and leadership consulting profession recognises the benefits of promoting local talent pools, however, AESC’s central concern is that the proposed visa changes will serve to restrict onshoring of key leaders and access to specific and specialised skills in the global market,” said Graham Willis.
Graham noted that diversity of talent was essential to Australia’s economic success, especially leaders who bring experience working in global markets or with specific skills. The skills and background required for successful senior level appointments cannot always be found locally, and for businesses to gain a competitive advantage in their increasingly global industries, mobilisation of executive talent across borders is critical.
AESC members also expressed concern about the proposal to establish a new two-year renewable visa-only able to be renewed once-and the closing of pathways to permanent residency status for some senior executives. “The view of our profession generally is that a two-year visa will likely create unnecessary and often irreconcilable risk both for Australian companies whose investors seek leadership certainty while, at the same time, top candidates seek both flexible, and long term contracts, of more than four years duration,” said Graham.
AESC noted that lack of employment security reduces the attractiveness of senior executive positions to overseas talent not available locally. AESC members also expressed concern that the closing of the pathway to permanent residency for company-sponsored executives will create a talent vacuum-a loss of long term capability building Australia’s talent ranks-and executives who have, historically, made long-term contributions to Australia.
“Executive Search and Leadership Consulting firms fully appreciate the depth of executive talent within the country, and understand the intention and desire of this legislation to protect opportunities available to Australian citizens,” said Steve Mullinjer, AESC Global Vice Chair and Chair of AESC’s Council of AsiaPacific and the Middle East. “However, for true economic opportunities for Australia and its citizens, it is essential that Australian companies have access to talent that can best deliver the greatest business outcomes.” He reinforced the point that AESC’s experience confirmed that high performance from any company requires leadership expertise that is diverse, experienced and can drive transformation and change.
“AESC members play a critical role in ensuring that organisations have the greatest competitive advantage-a direct pipeline of outstanding talent to encourage and facilitate greater output, innovation and productivity,” said Steve. “To best position Australian business to be competitive on an international scale and reward prosperity for Australia, AESC and its Australian membership, we urge the government to reconsider the unintended consequences of the legislation.”
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