As international borders begin to re-open for the fully vaccinated with eligible visas and the country hopes to return to a semblance of normalcy after a difficult two years, the debate and appeals around the place of hairdressers on the priority migration list had been reignited.

Finding renewed media attention on sites such as SmartCompany, the timeous debate adds to a longstanding request. The Australian Hairdressing Council (AHC) CEO Sandy Chong tells Styleicons that the industry body has been speaking to the government on this matter since 2019 in support of the industry. 

“The AHC has actively been lobbying to the Federal and State Governments since 2019 to consider medium to long term Visas for the industry,” Sandy said. “Since the pandemic we have lost many sponsored stylists and barbers especially on the 482 Visa in the Melbourne and Sydney CBDs. Both city CBD small businesses have suffered from the effects of the lockdowns more than anywhere else. Salons with 20 staff are now down to 6. Sponsorships will help fill a dire skills gap and encourage apprenticeships for the future sustainability of our industry.” 

According to Sandy, as told to SmartCompany, hairdressers have been on the National Skills Commission’s shortage list for two decades but still aren’t on the priority migration skilled occupation list. Job types on the list include engineers, pharmacists, nurses, accountants, programmers, social workers and chefs, as based on advice from the National Skills Commission. The system is facilitated by employer-sponsored nomination and individual visa applications through which visas can be fast-tracked.

The visa holders who will be able to make use of the re-opened borders include international students, working holiday-makers, temporary work (skilled) visa holders, temporary skill shortage visa holders and other provisional visa holders. Border restrictions will also depend on country of origin, for which various locations are becoming increasingly eligible, and the state of destination, which may still require quarantine.

Industry groups such as the AHC and the Australian Retailers Association have appealed to the federal government to include hair and beauty skills in this list to fill the senior skills gap, which can’t be fully satisfied through apprenticeship program.

Hopefully the changing state of the industry and the economy in general post-pandemic pushes this issue forward in a positive way.