THE Productivity Commission has today released a comprehensive draft report into labour mobility in Australia that warns against imposing excessive restrictions on recruitment practices for far remote areas – including the hiring of temporary skilled migrants to fill critical skills gaps.

The draft report, Geographic Labour Mobility, is presented by Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury with the principle aim to ‘examine patterns of mobility, impediments and enablers, and their effect on the ability to meet Australia’s continually changing workforce and employment needs’.

“Geographic mobility is especially valuable in an evolving and multi speed economy, helping people to adapt and connect with the job opportunities available in different regions of Australia, including outer metropolitan and non-metropolitan locations,” the draft report says.

“Enabling geographic mobility can help to relieve labour shortages, increase skills utilisation and improve earnings.”

The 346 report is among the most comprehensive publications into labour mobility in Australia, with many relevant findings to the national resource sector, including an analysis of the benefits and drawbacks of drive-in, drive-out and fly-in, fly-out work practices.

In relation to temporary migration, the report finds Subclass 457 Visa migrants have been effectively ‘used across a wide range of industries, and have been important in filling skills shortages’.

“Employers are using a range of labour sources in order to find the skills they require and are sourcing workers from a much wider geography than in the past. The increased use of FIFO practices and temporary immigration, such as 457 and working holiday visas, has been critical to meeting labour demand in many parts of the country,” the report says.

Under Section 9 “Employer Strategies”, the report breaks down the skilled migration practices of various sectors and for the resource industry, highlights that the workers are provided the same wages and conditions of their Australian counterparts and that the industry has largely benefits from this practice.

“The resources sector contends that employing international workers on subclass 457 visas has been effective in helping the mining industry overcome skills shortages, and that without skilled migration, the mining industry might not have been able to respond as well to demand over the past decade,” the report says.

“It has also been noted that skilled immigrants play an important part in improving the local workforce through general knowledge and skills transfers.”

A number of AMMA submissions on issues of labour mobility and skilled migration policy were referenced throughout the report as strong contributors to the research.

The Productivity Commission is inviting the public to examine this draft report and comment on it by written submission (email) by Friday 7 February 2014. Further information on how to provide a submission is included on the study website.