Last week, The Australian reported how 457 visas for temporary foreign skilled workers have been used to employ nearly 38,000 workers foreign managers, professionals and tradespeople this year, despite there being a pool of 191,000 unemployed locals qualified for the same jobs.
Macro Business, by Leith van Onselen, 2 June 2014
Now, The Australian has revealed that only one in three of the 457 visas issued last year were subject to “labour market testing” to prove no Australian could do the job, with half of Australia’s migrant workers also recruited onshore:
Monash University demographer Bob Birrell, of the Centre for Population and Urban Research, said the 457 program was increasingly a “back door’’ for foreign workers “desperate to get into Australia’s labour market, rather than as a program allowing employers to meet skills vacancies’’…
A minority of employers preferred migrant workers who were “pretty easy to control’’ because they faced deportation if they lost their sponsored jobs.
It is worth reiterating that in March, the Abbott Government announced a review of 457 visas, which looked as if it would reopen a loophole that would allow employers to hire an unlimited number of foreign workers under a temporary working visa, potentially opening the system to widespread rorting.
As argued previously, the efficacy of allowing employers unfettered access to 457 visas is questionable, given: 1) the latest Department of Employment’s labour shortages report claimed that “skill shortages continued to abate” and employers in 2013 “generally filled their vacancies with ease and had large fields of applicants from whom to choose”; and 2) unemployment is hovering around the highest level in 10 years, whereas the labour force participation rate is falling (suggesting hidden employment), and there is substantial under-employment.
With the mining investment boom set to unwind over the next few years, along with the closure of the local car industry, labour surpluses are only likely to increase from today’s already high levels. In light of these facts, one has to seriously question whether the 457 visa program is being abused by employers, as well as the efficacy of further liberalising the program.
The more I look at this issues, the more it seems clear that the government is intent to undermine local workers’ pay and conditions, while at the same time keeping the throttle on population growth and capital’s share of profits.
While 457 visas are fine to fill genuine labour shortages, the system should not systematically make it easier to import labour from offshore rather than training local workers, as this will only lead to a large pool of unemployed, and deprive our youth of employment opportunities.