ChAFTA: Facts and How to Improve your Employment Prospects

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Note: Please note that Get Qualified Australia is neither involved in nor endorses the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. As Australia’s leading Skills Recognition & RPL Specialist, it seeks to improve the employment prospects of Australian workers through skills recognition services and the issuing of Nationally Recognised Qualifications.

View the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement Infographic here.

The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) has caused much controversy since being signed in June 2015, particularly within industries directly affected by the Agreement. However, despite the apparent backlash, it is important to consider whether the Agreement really poses as great a risk to Australian jobs and workplace safety as presumed, or whether there are ways to bypass and limit the potential negative repercussions the Agreement may have on the above factors, by working it to the advantage of Australian workers.

To grasp this concept better, it is important to first look at the implications of the Agreement.

At the heart of ChAFTA lies the streamlining of relevant skills assessment processes for temporary skilled labour visas, including a reduction of the number of occupations currently subject to mandatory skills assessment.

This means that Chinese workers looking to apply for an Australian Temporary Work (Skilled) 457 visa, will not be subject to mandatory skills assessment for ten prescribed occupations. These occupations include:

Automotive Electrician [321111]

Cabinetmaker [394111]

Carpenter [331212]

Carpenter and Joiner [331211]

Diesel Motor Mechanic [321212]

Electrician (General) [341111]

Electrician (Special Class) [341112]

Joiner [331213]

Motor Mechanic (General) [321211]

Motorcycle Mechanic [321213]

The removal of assessment practices leaves many questions for Australian tradies, predominantly:

– What safety measures will ensure that Aussie workers have access to job opportunities in Australia?
– What safeguards will ensure that safety standards in Australian workplaces are maintained?

In order to be able to answer these questions, one must first ponder the facts.

Fact 1) Shortage of skilled and qualified labour
Under the Agreement, a Chinese company investing more than $150 million in Australian infrastructure projects must use Australian workers unless the company can prove that there are no existing qualified Australian workers to do the job.

This means that Chinese workers may only be considered for job purposes if there is a shortage of skilled and qualified Australian workers for any given task. Even so, the company or investor may only bring in a limited number of qualified overseas workers who possess the specific skill sets required for the job, and only for a limited period of time when suitable local workers cannot be found.

Summary Points:

– Skilled and qualified Australian workers given job priority
– Chinese workers only brought if there are no qualified Australian workers to do the job
– Limited number of qualified overseas workers may be brought in

Fact 2) Skilled and qualified Chinese workforce

In the event that there is a shortage of qualified Australian workers, any foreign employees brought in must possess all the necessary skills and qualifications required to do the job. The Agreement does not modify the existing experience, skill and qualification-based requirements that foreign workers must possess when applying for a temporary skilled visa, but rather only proposes the removal of mandatory skills assessment procedures by Trade Recognition Australia, within the ten listed occupations.

This means that applicants must still demonstrate to the Department of Immigration that they possess the requisite skills and experience to work in the country, by supplying evidence of work history, qualifications and documents which demonstrate their English language skills. Should the candidate insufficiently prove their competency, or if further verification is required, they must undergo an additional skills assessment conducted by a registered training organisation (RTO) approved by Trades Recognition Australia.


– ChAFTA does not change required qualification requirements and skill levels of foreign workers
– 457 visa applicants need required skills, qualifications and experience to work safely in Australia, and adhere to all visa requirements
– Further assessment may be conducted to verify skill levels and competency by a TRA-approved RTO

Fact 3) Maintenance of licensing requirements and safety standards

Because Chinese workers are subject to the same qualification and skill-based requirements as Australian workers, and hold the necessitated levels of competency, the Agreement does not change and/or diminish the licensing requirements or safety standards of Australian workplaces. Competent workers equate to competent work, less hazards, and maintenance of safety standards.


– Licensing and qualification requirements maintained
– Safety standards maintained

How to sustain your employability in the face of ChAFTA

Because Chinese workers within major infrastructure projects can only secure positions in which there are no skilled and qualified Australian workers to do the job, it is important for each Australian employee to possess the right skill sets and qualifications to achieve consideration for projects, and essentially, keep their jobs.

If you do not have the required qualifications to work in your industry and wish to either achieve recognition for your existing skills and experience or simply expand the fields in which you are currently qualified, you may do so by attaining a Nationally Recognised Qualification. Attaining a qualification doesn’t have to take years, and can often be done within weeks, from the comfort of your own home.

As a credible method of gaining certification, Skills Recognition & RPL allows you to convert your existing skills, knowledge and experience into a qualification by supplying evidence of your competency against the core and electives units of your desired qualification. This means you’ll be attaining formal recognition for what you already know and are proficient in, whilst proving to employers that you are a skilled, qualified and experienced worker with full competency to work in Australian workplaces.

Qualifying our Aussie workforce will ensure that the need for foreign workers is lessened, the Australian workforce is qualified and given priority jobs, and each individual employee achieves the competitive edge required to remain employable in the face of ChAFTA.

Think you’re eligible to convert your skills and experience into a Qualification? Take our Free Skills Review to find out!

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