Proposed Changes to Skilled Migration Occupation Lists

 Hairdressers/Massage Therapists under threat

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (formally the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business) conducts regular reviews of the skilled migration occupation lists, with the goal of ensuring their responsiveness to genuine skill needs across Australia.

These lists exist to underpin a range of employer-sponsored, points-tested, state-nominated and training visa programs. Changes are rarely welcomed by a commercial sector relying upon forward and strategic planning which seldom works in harmony with governmental adjustments.

Changes due prior to March 31st

On December 13th the government released its “Traffic Light Bulletin” which proposed a range of changes and sought community feedback.

Most significantly affected, the Short Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) suffered 11 potential casualties, which (among others) included the proposed removal of Hairdressers and Massage Therapists.

Full List of Removals from STSOL

Careers Counsellor                         Vehicle Trimmer            Business Machine Mechanic

Animal Attendant and Trainer     Gardener (General)       Hairdresser

Wood Machinist                              Massage Therapist        Community Worker

Diving instructor (Open Water)    Gymnastics Coach or Instructor


As one of the early respondents and on behalf of its members, the Australian Hairdressing Council (AHC) made a strong case for maintaining the status quo, citing real life instances where an inability to source hairdressing and barbering skills from overseas would severely damage the hairdressing industry.

The AHC assessed a number of businesses in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, determining that as many as 448 current workers would be required to return to their home countries, should the proposed changes eventuate; a position which would severely damage businesses already struggling under the threat of Coronavirus. Generally speaking, although it is more costly for small enterprises to employ overseas qualified hairdressers and barbers, it is often the only option for salon owners seeking to sustain and to build their businesses.

“We want to protect small businesses which need to sponsor skilled overseas workers to fill Australia’s skills gap,” says AHC CEO Sandy Chong. “Naturally salon owners would prefer to employ Australian stylists to fill their positions but we know that so many of them have spent months and countless dollars on recruitment trying to do so, mostly unsuccessfully. Employing talent from overseas allows Australian businesses to grow; it trains our apprentices and contributes to the sustainability of our industry.”

An online petition, established by the AHC, received overwhelming support.

Public submissions have now closed, so the outcomes remain anxiously anticipated. 

What other options exist?

For the occupations listed above, while the STSOL door is not yet closed it seems perilously near. Possibly, strenuous representation will secure a deferment; we should know before March 31st, but other options may well exist for appropriately qualified applicants.

In general, the government’s position is that businesses may consider the option to apply for sponsorship then employ required skilled staff via a Labour Agreement. Given the significant timeframes involved in processing Labour Agreements however, the intervening transition period may well see affected industries suffering severe staff shortages.

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For more information on this or on any relating issues, contact the migration experts – Sellanes Clark and Associates – specialising in all immigration matters.

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