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Australia Reports a Surge of Skilled Migrants From India

Indians have become the fastest-growing group of immigrants to Australia. The number of Indians arriving now surpasses the Chinese and the Vietnamese as well as the Italians and Greeks - a major shift in Australian immigration. Skilled Indian workers are vital to the Australian economy, which suffers chronic labor shortages.

Asians are migrating to Australia like never before. Workers from Indian in particular are in high demand here.

Engineers, accountants and health professionals are all making the move from India. They bring with them the skills that Australia's booming economy desperately needs.

Shantanu Chakraborty is an information technology expert who has been in Sydney for five years. He recently received a promotion at his job.

"They do value me because at the end of the day, within two years of joining them, they've given me a partnership offer in the firm, which is brilliant," he said. "So, yes, if you are good at your work opportunities are there."

But in some fields, immigrants can struggle.

Shantanu's wife Nishita Bhansali is an interior designer. She finds it tough to move ahead at work.

"Unfortunately I can't say the same as perhaps he can because I think the interior design and architecture field here is fairly saturated," she said. "There's always someone out there who's maybe not as skilled but willing to work for less money."

But in many industries, Australia is very short of skilled workers, and that makes educated Indian immigrants important to the economy. But other countries also are looking to this labor pool to ease their worker shortages.

Former government adviser Gerard Henderson says Australia needs to do well in this global competition for skilled labor.

"The word has got out that Australia's looking for good migrants, well-educated migrants with good English, and Indians fit that, so the question is whether those who want to leave India want to come to Australia or the United States or Britain or Canada or wherever they want to go," said Henderson. "We've now got a very strong economy and because we have a strong economy we're after workers for that economy."

However, trade unions have complained that importing so many foreign workers does not address the causes of Australia's skills shortage.

Amanda Wise, a professor from Macquarie University, says recruiting migrants might not be the long-term answer to problems within the Australian labor force.

"The government should be actually investing education and training of Australian residents," she said. "So there's a kind of growing debate around that issue that should we just be going overseas to import skilled workers which is the cheap way for an employer to do it rather than training and education."

Whatever the political debate about immigration, Indian culture has thrived in multicultural Australia, where one in every four people was born overseas.

Community leaders such as Prabhat Sinha believe that the reasons so many immigrants from India have done so well here are simple.

"Indians are very motivated people doesn't matter what profession they are in. Even in business sector they're doing very well. They are very understanding about the needs of a country, may it be business or profession or whatever field it is," said Sinha. "They do a lot of research and they're friendly and that's the reason why they succeed."

Indians now are the third-largest group of immigrants, behind the British and New Zealanders.

They make up 10 percent of new arrivals - roughly a thousand people every week - and that figure continues to rise.

Many of the newcomers, like Nishita Bhansali and Shantanu Chakraborty, make it clear they plan to settle permanently in Australia.

"We've got our existing family moving over and we've now got so many friends and other close relationships here," said Bhansali. "I think it's a great to live and it's probably one of the best decisions we've both made in our lives."

"Absolutely," said Chakraborty. "I don't think I'm going to go back unless there's something drastically happening on the other side of the world but, no I'm here for life."

Some immigrants and those who study migration patterns say that still, Australia can be a lonely place for Indian newcomers, and some will face discrimination. But for most, the signs are that moving to Australia is good for them and for the country.