The West Australian

There are calls for a building industry labour agreement to make it easier to import labour, as the number of migrant tradies coming to WA nosedives.

The Urban Development Institute of Australia (WA) said the critical shortage of workers in the construction and development sector was restricting the industry’s capacity to meet housing demand.

The lobby group wants a labour agreement — as exists in the dairy, meat, pork, fishing and fine dining sectors — to make it easier to hire from abroad.

Immigration expert Abul Rizvi told a UDIA conference this week that WA’s share of total migration had gone from 16 per cent in 2012 to less than 10 per cent in 2021.

Dr Rizvi, who previously worked as the deputy secretary at the Department of Immigration, said the number of migrant construction workers in WA had nosedived from about 23,000 people in early 2013 to about 6000 early last year.

UDIA chief executive Tanya Steinbeck said it had an impact on everyone.

“That is going to start having an even greater impact on housing supply and affordability,” she said. “UDIA WA is very keen to work with other industry bodies and the State Government to negotiate a labour agreement for high quality WA construction industry employees.”

A labour agreement would mean employers do not have to individually seek sponsorship approvals. It would also prevent employers from having to conduct a labour market test for each nominated position.