Older IT Staff Replaced by ‘Cheap 457 Skills’

The Australian Computer Society says companies are still abusing the 457 temporary skilled migration scheme to hire workers from overseas over local candidates, despite attempts to crack down on over-use of the visa.

AFR, by James Hutchinson, 9 May 2014

The technology workers’ lobby said in a submission to the Department of Immigration’s independent review of the scheme that while 457 visas were necessary to fill a perceived gap in local skills available in the technology industry, some companies were not properly searching for local talent first.

In some cases, it alleged companies had posted vacant positions online on Facebook for less than 12 hours to comply with rules mandating that companies search locally before determining whether a 457 visa is required.

“The ACS has received feedback from individuals of alleged employer abuse of the 457 Visa scheme,” it said. “Typically this feedback is where employers are perceived to have retrenched older ICT workers and replaced them with ‘cheap’ 457 skills due to perceived short-term cost and productivity drivers.”

The technology industry is one of the single biggest users of 457 visas and was pointed out by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard as a potential abuser of the scheme.

Labor and unions said on Thursday that efforts to crack down on temporary foreign workers had been successful after new figures showed a 36.3 per cent slide in the number of applications, and 23.2 per cent slide in the number of visas granted in the 12 months to March 31.

Data released by the Department of Immigration showed the number of applications for 457 visas in the IT industry fell 21.7 per cent in the nine months to March 31, compared to the same period a year ago. Some 4280 temporary skilled visas were granted in the IT industry in the financial year to March 31, down 14 per cent from a year ago.

Call for de-regulation

The data does not appear to cover technology vacancies at companies not specifically part of the IT industry.

While employers using 457 visas must now train workers under the scheme, the ACS said it remained unclear how companies were training staff and whether that expenditure was being spent properly.

But the Australian Information Industry Association, which represents major local and multi-national technology companies, said the scheme was already costly and should be de-regulated to make it easier for companies to attract qualified staff.

“The program plays a critical role in addressing the current ICT skills shortage and provides the opportunity to contribute to the development of Australia’s own ICT skills base and expertise,” it said in a submission.

“AIIA members advise that the 457 visa program is an integral part of their recruitment strategies and is instrumental in cross training members of their respective domestic workforces.

It said there was no specific proof demonstrating that IT companies were not complying with the rules under the scheme and the cost of the scheme was becoming burdensome.

“Members, specifically SME Australian companies, have reported that this is now impacting their ability to attract 457 visa employees – and in turn their ability to compete for talent in areas of skill shortage,” it said. “Of major concern is their ability to remain competitive where the cost of accessing the skills they need is increasingly prohibitive and their efforts unproductive.”

The review, which is due to report by the end of June, is examining the extent of non-compliance, regulatory costs to employers, existing penalties for breaches and how to “deregulate” the system without compromising its integrity.

Click here to read the original article at the AFR.

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