Bob Kinnaird, of labour market consultants Kinnaird and Associates, said the Federal Government had brought in large numbers of IT workers over the past four years, even though there was a serious oversupply in the Australian labour market, particularly of graduates. He said the skilled migration program had effectively increased the IT graduate labour supply by nearly 80 per cent in recent years. During this time, 30 per cent of Australian IT graduates could not find full-time work.
The policy had been a "miserable failure", Mr Kinnaird said, leading to an oversupply of entry-level programmers, high graduate unemployment and lower wages.
In his paper, commissioned by the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, Mr Kinnaird said that in the past four years the number of visas granted to overseas students graduating in IT from Australian universities had increased by 62 per cent.
The report said this had been accompanied by plummeting enrolments by Australian students in IT courses, which dropped by 36 per cent between 2001 and 2004.
"People lured to Australia on the promise of lucrative jobs in IT get here and find they don't have a hope of getting a job," he said.
"It's a human disaster for these people who, in many cases, uprooted themselves and their families, leaving behind reasonably paid jobs, and find they are worse off when they come here. There's a heck of a lot of people driving cabs and working as security guards who are IT graduates."
Mr Kinnaird called on the Government to "substantially reduce" the intake of IT graduates through the skilled migration program until the market could absorb Australian IT graduates.
He said entry-level programmers should be taken off the skilled occupation list.
He also said the Australian Computer Society, which accredits the IT qualifications of applicants for permanent residency, should introduce tougher English tests and insist that overseas students spend three years studying IT in Australia, rather than two.
But Australian Computer Society chief executive officer Dennis Furini said that while there was possibly an oversupply of entry-level programmers, there was a shortage of specialists in areas such as e-commerce and network security.
An Immigration Department spokesman said it relied on information from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations to draw up the skilled occupation list.
"The Immigration Department gives no information suggesting IT jobs should be taken off the skilled occupation list," he said.