FASS Academic Leading the Charge in Australia's Skilled Immigration Policy Evolution

3 April 2024
Skilled Immigration Policy with Associate Professor Anna Boucher
Associate Professor Anna Boucher has been appointed to the federal Australian government’s Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration. Her expertise bridging academia and policy impact and engagement is helping to shape Australia’s skilled migration landscape.
Associate Professor Anna Boucher

Associate Professor Anna Boucher is the Chair of Discipline for Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney.

Professor Boucher has recently been appointed as one of the five academic experts across Australia to comprise the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration (MACSM) Expert Sub-Committee. She will be advising the Australian Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, the Honourable Andrew Giles MP on Australia’s immigration settings.

Her global, statistical and comparative expertise in immigration policy and extensive research background makes her a valuable asset in shaping Australia’s skilled migration agenda during these transformative times.

We caught up with her to discuss her recent appointment and the impact it will have.

Tell us about your appointment, how it came about and what you expect to achieve?

I’ve been appointed as one five academic experts across Australia and eight experts in total to the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration (MACSM) Expert Sub-Committee.

We’ve been tasked over an 18-month period at first instance to provide expert advice to the Minister and his Department of Home Affairs (together with Home Affairs Minister the Honourable Clare O’Neil) on Australia’s skilled immigration settings during a period of rapid change.

I received a phone call from Home Affairs requesting me to serve on the Committee, and after consulting with senior staff at USyd, I accepted the invitation. The results will be the outcome not of one individual but the combined wisdom of the group.

The Minister has selected a terrific range of people who can also work together very well. We will also interact with the main MASCM committee that is a tripartite body representing government, unions and the business sector and the MASCM Secretariat that sits within Home Affairs.

How does your academic background and research expertise prepare you for your role on the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration?

Ever since my undergraduate honours year at the University of Sydney in 2004 (in Government) I have researched on immigration issues.

Over the last twenty years, my research has moved from citizenship policy in Germany, to Australian immigration settings, to skilled immigration in Australia and Canada, to global immigration data across 50 counties, to questions of labour market regulation and immigration.

Over these two decades, my research has garnered the interest of domestic and global government and intergovernmental bodies. I’ve advised among several bodies, the UN, IOM and Australian Departments of Home Affairs, federal Senate and Treasury, as well as the British and Canadian government, APEC and the Horn of Africa. I was part of the Australian delegation to APEC in 2019 with the then Department of Education where I advised all APEC economies on gendered immigration statistics.

This combined work probably contributed to my being selected as an expert and has taught me a great deal about the nexus between policy work and academic research.

Anna Boucher speaks as part of a panel

In what ways do you envision bridging the gap between academic research and policy implementation within the realm of skilled migration?

My doctorate awarded by the London School of Economics considered Australian and Canadian skilled immigration policy. I extended that in my first book to 41 skilled immigration visas across 15 countries.

This research is directly relevant to current government agendas as set out in the Migration Strategy around changing skilled immigration. In short, all research has its time! My most recent book on labour market exploitation and regulation ­– Patterns of Exploitation: Understanding Migrant Worker Rights in Advanced Democracies – is also relevant to questions of immigration regulation.

More generally, as my research is quite applied and empirical, it lends itself to policy advice. 

How do you anticipate that your involvement in the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration will enhance or inform your current research?

In three ways – Firstly, through the Committee, I am engaging with leading Australian thinkers in asylum, labour rights, immigration and industrial relations as well as interdisciplinary expertise through the presence of labour economists. This will deepen my knowledge and understanding of these fields through learning and working together with others.

Secondly, the Committee work will potentially invite me to undertake research on key emerging policy issues aside from the expert hearings themselves.

Thirdly, I am broadening my industry and other links through the tripartite committee, and this could lead to new ideas as well that I might not have considered to date.

My current research agenda is on the nexus between the labour market, labour regulation, immigration policy and data measurement and these issues are important in both the government’s Migration Strategy and the preceding Parkinson Review. So, the relationship to research is synchronistic.

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