Australia unveiled measures Monday targeting Americans as it looks to fill a jobs shortage in the resources sector during a boom time for the industry thanks to demand from China and other parts of Asia.
Surging commodities exports to Asia helped Australia avoid a recession during the global downturn and the government has a massive pipeline of investments but it is struggling to find enough labour.
Skills, Science and Research Minister Chris Evans said the demand for skilled workers was likely to peak over the next three to five years, and the United States had the supply to fill the gaps.
The announcement comes with unemployment in the United States remaining at a painfully high 8.3 percent — despite a recent run of improvement in the jobs market — as the economy struggles to recover from the financial crisis.
“This is a great opportunity to address skill shortages in Australia by filling shortfalls in particular areas with qualified candidates from the United States,” Evans said.
Currently, workers from the US in licensed occupations, such as electricians and plumbers, need to be assessed in Australia for their provisional licences, which can mean waiting months between entry and starting work.
But the new rules will allow them to be assessed before arriving, providing certainty to applicants and employers, Evans said.
Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of the iron ore and coking coal used in steelmaking, and the second-biggest exporter of thermal coal used in power stations.
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