Government visa changes a disaster for innovation agenda and startup community

The Australian Government’s changes to the skilled visa policy are a disaster for Australia’s startup community, stopping small innovative firms from overcoming yawning skills shortages, an industry group said today.

FinTech Australia CEO Danielle Szetho also revealed that the government’s position to shutdown skilled visas for some tech occupations, with immediate effect, in fact directly contradicted its own Departmental recommendations on skills shortages.

“The strong early feedback from our members is that, without the existing visa system, they simply wouldn’t be able to fill positions they need to grow, particularly in ICT and web development,” Ms Szetho said.

“We’re already hearing terrible stories from startups who are losing a third of their small teams because of the immediate effect of the changes, which is undoubtedly disastrous for their growth and team morale.

“There is no question that our members would prefer to use home-grown skills before bringing in overseas talent, but at present the supply is just not there.

“This decision is a grave mis-step when it comes to driving Australia’s ongoing prosperity, which largely comes about through the jobs and growth created by startup companies.”

Ms Szetho said the government had, with immediate effect, removed over 200 occupations when creating the Short term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) which informed visa nominations. Removed occupations included skills badly-needed by Australian’s tech community, including:

  • Web Developer
  • Multimedia Designer
  • ICT Support and Test Engineers
  • ICT Support Technicians
  • Market Research Analyst

However, the government’s official skills shortage list updated in late March shows that employers are experiencing “recruitment difficulties” for the Web Developer job category, particularly for senior Web Developers who are the main target of the fintech startup sector.

“It doesn’t make sense when one government Department says there is a skills shortage in a particular area, and another is taking steps to make it more difficult to help fill this shortage so our economy can grow,” she said.

“Our entire startup community needs web developers to bring digital products to market – that task has just become almost impossible overnight, with no time being given for people to prepare.”

In addition:
The EY FinTech Australia Census published in November last year found that 43 per cent of Australian fintech companies nominated “attracted suitable or qualified” talent as an internal impediment to growth (the third highest of all such impediments)
Of the firms with talent shortage issues, some 73 per cent nominated engineering/software as a key skills deficiency, followed by design/user experience on 42 per cent, sales (35%) and marketing (24%)

“For a government that has been championing a move toward a more sustainable knowledge economy, this announcement leaves skill gaps in vital areas, and in its execution feels a bit like a betrayal of the fintech and startup community.

“In addition to working with the States to rebuild and fund our vocational education training system, the Australian Government should engage with the startup community and reconsider the timing and the scope of the changes to ensure our future growth isn’t capped by poorly implemented regulation,” Ms Szetho said.

About FinTech Australia
FinTech Australia is a national association for the Australian FinTech Startup community. Our vision is to make Australia the leading market for FinTech Innovation and Investment by working with both sides of Government, Industry and the Australian FinTech community to create a supportive environment and partner ecosystem in Australia and abroad.

Media Contact
Danielle Szetho
Chief Executive Officer
FinTech Australia
Ph. 0414075423