Overseas worker numbers jump by 20 per cent

New immigration figures released by Australia’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship yesterday reveal that the number of overseas workers coming to Australia on 457 visas has jumped by more than 20 per cent over the past year.

The figures are being used as further proof by Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Brendan O’Connor, that the temporary visa programme needs reform.

Overseas Workers

Overseas Workers

“There are now 108 810 457 visa holders – a 20.4 per cent growth in the 12 months to April 30. This is at a time when employment growth remains soft in some industries and regions,” the Minister said.

“A recent survey by the Migration Council revealed that 15 per cent of employers anonymously surveyed said they used 457 visas, although they could find appropriate local labour,” he continued. “Increasingly we are seeing the misuse of the system by employers who are not making an effort to find local labour first, or who exploit overseas workers under this scheme, which is why the government will take further action to stop employers misusing the programme.”

However, critics – including labour groups and some members of O’Connor’s own party, most notably former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd – maintain that 457 visas provide a necessary route to the country for temporary skilled foreign workers, and say there is no proof that a crackdown on the programme is required.

The Minister has also announced yesterday that some changes have been made to the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) – a list which includes all the occupations skilled migrant applicants must have experience and qualifications in, in order to be able to emigrate.

“This list, designed to fill gaps in the workforce by attracting skilled migrants to Australia, no longer includes the skill categories of retail pharmacy and aircraft engineering,” Mr O’Connor said.

“The SOL is an important tool to meet demand for skills and includes a number of highly valued and skilled occupations across a range of industries including medical, engineering and mechanical services. It is important this list focusses on occupations in genuine need in the medium to long term and the up-to-date SOL maintains the government’s targeted approach to skilled migration.”

The SOL is based on the advice of the independent Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) and applies to independent migrants seeking to come to Australia.