Australia could be swamped with millions of extra foreign workers over the next five years, according to a federal government agency.
Herald Sun, by John Masanauskas, 4 August 2014
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James made the prediction as she launched an investigation into alleged exploitation of people on working holiday visas.
It is estimated there are more than one million foreigners with work rights — or 10 per cent of the national workforce — on temporary visas.
But Ms James said trends showed the number of overseas workers could rise to between 2.5 million and 3.5 million over the next five years, with an expected increase in vulnerable workers seeking help for job issues.
Foreigners with work rights include working holiday-makers, students, 457 skilled visa holders and people on bridging visas.
Dr Bob Birrell, of the Monash University Centre for Population and Urban Research, said these overseas workers were threatening the prospects of Australians looking for lower-skilled entry-level jobs.
“These migrants come from job-hungry situations and are prepared to take lower wages and conditions, which means employers tend to favour them for scarce jobs,” he said.
Dr Birrell welcomed the Ombudsman’s investigation into the work conditions of people on the 417 working holiday-maker visa, with 128,000 such visas issued in the first half of 2013-14.
The Ombudsman has received about 2000 requests for assistance from such visa holders during the past two years.
Cases include non-payment or underpayment of wages, and employees paying bosses and third parties in return for documentation to extend their visas up to the two-year limit.
Industries attracting most complaints were accommodation and food services, agriculture, forestry and fishing.
The Ombudsman has launched dozens of court actions on behalf of overseas workers, including against a WA cleaning company that was fined $344,000 for underpaying people.