Indonesia hopes for better access to Australia's labour market

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A nurse prepares a syringe containing an experimental Ebola virus vaccine.
A nurse prepares a syringe containing an experimental Ebola virus vaccine. Reuters/Denis Balibouse

Indonesia is reportedly requesting its nurses and tourism workers to be provided with a better access to Australia's labour market on the eve of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's visit to the country. The request is part of a free trade deal that the two countries are expected to sign before the year ends.

Noke Kiroyan, president of the Indonesia Australia Business Council (IABC), explained that the tourism industry is growing swiftly, which calls for the need of people who obtain proper training. "Australia is well positioned to provide that training,” Financial Review has quoted him saying.

Turnbull and Trade Minister Steve Ciobo are scheduled to visit Indonesia this week after President Joko Widodo's weekend trip to Australia last month. The Australian leader’s visit is expected to maintain the thrust in negotiations for the Indonesia Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IACEPA).

Business groups from both Australia and Indonesia previously suggested creating a special visa category for the service sector movement of skilled individuals. The IABC president stressed that skills training, which Indonesia needs, is going to be a pivotal aspect of the final agreement between the two countries. He believes that Indonesian nurses can acquire proper training from Australia and come home with better skills.

Under the 457 visa scheme, nurses from Indonesia can work in Australia. However, they usually are having a hard time practising due to stringent requirements. These include a relatively high English language test score that foreign nurses have to meet. Moreover, 18 to 30 year-olds should have completed two years of undergraduate study, submit a letter of support from the Indonesian government and a chest X-ray among other requirements.

Ross Taylor from the Indonesia Institute said it is not easy for a young people to work to Australia. He said there should be more young people moving between the two countries.

"We make it so hard for young Indonesians to travel here. We put up a huge amount of blockages,” he said. The Working Holiday 417 visa is also open to applicants from parts of Europe, Canada, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

For Hal Hill, professor of economics at The Australian National University, Indonesians are more focused on labour access rather than goods access when it comes to trade deal. "I don't think Australia will want to budge on opening that to Indonesia because it sets a precedent and other countries will want access,’ he said.

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