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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Australia needs 40,000 nurses, 250,000 mining workers -- POEA

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DAGUPAN CITY -- A deployment program of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to be launched in early 2012 would open opportunities for employment in Australia for Filipino nurses and skilled workers in the construction and mining sectors.
The deployment program was outlined by outgoing POEA Administrator Carlos Cao Jr. consistent with the recent report of Labor Attache Jalilo Dela Torre of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Canberra on the fast expanding work opportunities in Australia,
Cao said the current shortage of nurses in Australia is at 40,000 until 2015 while the shortage in the construction industry is projected upward to 750,000 construction positions over the next 20 years.
On top of that, 200 “mega” projects are currently lined up but with no available Australian workforce to complete them.
“This is now the opportune time to provide viable solutions to the growing number of jobless and under-employed Filipino nurses now already numbering close to 300,000, including the 68,000 who just recently passed the latest nursing board examinations,” said Cao.
In the same report, Cao noted that while “the Department of Immigration and Citizenship” (DIAC) of Australia lists the Philippines and China as the two countries with the highest number of migrant workers in Australia, still the country's yearly OFW deployment in Australia, with only 899 new hires in 2009 and less than 1,000 in 2010, is too small when compared to their very acute “skills shortage.”
Australia is one of the least explored frontiers for skilled Filipino workers and professionals wanting to work in a developed economy offering decent work and decent pay, the report also said.
“With its mining and construction boom that run short of skilled workers and its health care system now with an acute need for registered nurses and other allied professionals, there are tremendous opportunities to widen the gateway for jobs for Filipinos in Australia across all industries and across all states and territories,” Cao said.
Australia as alternative
Cao added that Australia may now turn out to be a large alternative market if the political turmoil in the Middle East and the economic downturn in the Eurozone and in the US continue to deteriorate.
Between 2009 and 2011, Australia took in 107,868 skilled migrants, and between 2011 and 2012, a 17 percent increase is planned, with the Federal Government projecting another 2.4 million migrant skilled workers in the next four years.
By 2050, a quarter of Australia’s population of 23 million will be over 65 years old, and by then, the country will need 5.2 million skilled migrants. Every two minutes and 38 seconds, Australia welcomes a migrant from overseas. It is a multi-cultural society with 7 percent Asians and 2.3 percent aboriginal. Also, 40 percent of the Australian population are foreign-born or with parents overseas.
With Australia’s “huge skills crisis,” the number of workers under the “Skilled Migration Scheme” is capped at 180,000 every year, showing that there is still plenty of territories and possibilities to explore,” the Labor Attache reported.
Cao explained his agency’s “innovative, creative, and proactive” strategy to break through with more aggressiveness on the large Australian job market by overcoming the very stringent 457 visa requirements of Australia, also known as the “sponsored” or the “normal work” visa, and their tough English proficiency tests or “International English Language Testing System” (IELTS).
According to the POEA chief, the solution is for Filipino nurses to now go through a “bridging course” of only about three months to make up for the “gaps” due to the only 10 years of primary education in the Philippines which has only been recently stretched into 12 years like in the rest of the world.
Strictly to be conducted in Australia under Federal Government rules as “bridge training,” and still very expensive, an “innovative” plan has been proposed similar to a “fly now, pay later” arrangement, through which banks accredited by the Philippine government will advance the cost of the “bridging course” by way of “no-collateral” loans to be amortized only once the status of a “registered nurse” has been attained.
Cao noted a very attractive feature of the program which enables a Filipino nurse already registered with the Australian Health Practitioners Registration Agency (AHPRA) with just two years of the regular employment contract, can already apply for permanent residence in Australia together with the spouse and children under a “family and career plan” component of the program.
Cao also emphasized that with salaries equal to those received by Australian nurses, a Filipino nurse’s salary range is between P175,000 and P254,358 a month which is more than enough to amortize in just four years at P34,000 monthly the “bridging scholarship loan.”
The legal and policy issue to be resolved, according to the POEA chief, is whether the POEA can issue “overseas employment certificates” or OECs for Filipino nurses under Australia’s 456 subcategory or “short stay” visas or under 442 “occupational training visa” based on a “conditional contract of employment” preceding the completion of the three-month “bridging training.”
The POEA chief said that the Australian training arrangement can be likened to the Japanese Language Training Course for Filipino nurses and caregivers currently deployed in Japan prior to their regular employment contract, the training for which actually even takes longer at three months in the Philippines and six months thereafter in Japan, under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
Cao said that he expects the formal approval by the POEA Governing Board for this forward-looking and innovative overseas employment program for Australia.

He added that India, another strongly competitive migrant-sending country, has now adapted the “bridging program,” and before Indians can finally monopolize the Australian market, the Filipino migrant workers must now be properly positioned with the full support of the Aquino administration as well as the private sector.

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