Oz business groups want 457 visa criteria relaxed

Business groups in Australia have called on the country’s government to abolish the Labour Market Tests currently required for 457 visa holders.

The groups argue that the tests, which are designed to ensure that no qualified local Australian workers could take a position before it is offered to an overseas temporary worker, just add further red tape for employers trying to plug skill shortages.

The move is likely to anger unions, who have long fought to limit the number of 457 visas offered to foreign workers. They have long argued that the system, which is designed to allow employers to fill severe skill shortages, is often misused by employers who are either looking to bring in cheap labour or can’t be bothered to adequately train their own workforce.

Business groups, though, led by the Business Council of Australia, state that it is time to dispel ‘misinformation’ about the scheme for skilled foreign workers, which it vies as essential to maintaining Australia’s economic strength.

As part of an ongoing review of the 457 visa system, the Australian government has already agreed to consider lowering the current minimum salary level for jobs in regional locations. Under the present rules, all 457 visa holders must be paid a minimum salary of at least AUS$53,900 a year, and while it was announced last year that this level will remain, on the whole, in place for the “next few years,” they didn’t rule out varying it by location.

The latest Department of Immigration and Border Protection figures show that 14,370 457 primary visa applications were lodged in the 2015-16 migration programme year to 30th September 2015, an increase of 2.8 per cent compared to the same time the previous programme year.

A total of 103,860 457 primary visa holders were in Australia as of 30th September 2015, a decrease of 5.8 per cent compared to the previous programme year.