Archive for 457 visas

Turning the tide on skilled immigration

While Australia’s business community continues to talk about Australia’s skills shortages, yesterday the Australian Government announced that it would leave the new regulations on 457 visas for on-hire employers in place for at least twelve months.

Sponsorship of skilled workers is an important source of workers for many skilled industries in Australia, including technology, construction and engineering. In the past, 457 visa migrants helped to bridge Australia’s skills gaps.

And yet, under regulations which took effect on 1 October, 2007, on-hire companies that seek to sponsor overseas skilled workers can only do so through labour agreements.  And these agreements require sponsors to employ 5 per cent graduates, 15 per cent apprentices, or spend 2 per cent of total payroll on training.

This means labour hire firms cannot sponsor 457 workers unless they meet their expenses, keep on their books a percentage of local workers who are receiving training, and invest at least two per cent of their gross wages bill on training.

The government’s decision has come despite  recommendations from the External Reference Group (ERG) review of the regulations (and report, containing 16 recommendations), which noted that many employers, particularly on-hire employers, had difficulty meeting the training criteria for 457 sponsor status, and recommended that the government “investigate processes to improve the flexibility of the temporary skilled migration program”, in relation to training.

Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Consulting Services Association, Julie Mills, said yesterday that the decision lacked any real justification, and would only serve to worsen the current skills shortage.

“By imposing a labour agreement with conditions that nine out of 10 [RCSA] members can’t meet, the regulations effectively prevent recruiters from sponsoring temporary skilled migrants in on-hired employment.”

Before you say “but 457 visa applicants are taking Australians’ jobs”, consider this: since the introduction of the new laws, other countries have continued to recruit Australian workers. In the seven weeks that followed the laws, there was an outflow of Australians, but no inflow of workers in Australia.

It’s time to turn the tide.

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