457 visa dumping met with concern

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Thursday, 20 April, 2017

Malcolm turnbull carousel 2

The federal government’s decision to abolish 457 visas has been met with concern from the local market.

The Australian Information Industry Association has expressed concern over the move, stating that it could frustrate the “urgent need to fill critical shortages now in jobs demanding cybersecurity, cloud and data and analytics related skills”.

“The AIIA is working with members, universities and government to address the skills gap and improve graduate outcomes to increase the number of locally qualified and trained ICT workers. In the meantime, many of our member companies rely on the flow of skilled 457 visa migrants to meet short-term demands,” AIIA CEO Rob Fitzpatrick said.

Mike Cannon-Brookes, CEO of Atlassian Australia, has likewise been publicly critical of the decision, stating that the success of the company’s Australian operation is dependent on 457 visas.

On Twitter, Cannon-Brookes also took umbrage with the assertion that the company does not do enough to train Australian professionals, stating that the company has created over 1000 Australian jobs, hired hundreds of graduates and offered hundreds of scholarships. He also said that on the surface, the tightening of rules announced “actually look quite sensible to me”.

The 457 visa category will be replaced by a ‘Temporary Skills Shortage Visa’ with a two-year term. Unlike with 457 visas, there will also be no guarantee of permanent residency at the end of the new visa’s term.

A second four-year visa will be targeted at higher, more specialised skills, and will enable recipients to apply for permanent residency at the end of the term.

The list of occupations qualified for the new visas has been reduced by over 200 compared to the 457 visa, and within the technology sector include positions such as web developer, telecommunications technician and multimedia designer.

The new two- and four-year visas will now require two years’ prior work experience, a full police record and criminal check, and “in almost all cases”, mandatory labour market testing, Turnbull said.

Labour market testing involves requirements including having advertised for the position locally for at least six months, Turnbull said. He also told ABC Radio that employers found skirting these obligations will no longer be eligible to import workers under the new visas.

The estimated 95,000 current 457 visa holders will be grandfathered in, with no change to their arrangements.

Abolishing 457 visas would indeed have the potential to have a substantial impact on the ICT sector. Research from the Information Technology Professionals Association (ITPA), published in March, indicates that the sector has been one of the most prolific users of the 457 system.

While the total number of applications for 457 visas grew just 2% over the past decade, within the IT sector there has been a 136% rise over the same period, the ITPA said.

For specific entry-level occupations such as Systems Administration and IT Support, the growth rate for 457 visas granted has swelled by over 480%.

But the real-world impact on the sector could be quite limited. IT roles are barely represented among the list of excluded occupations.

Additionally, the government’s changes to the visa scheme have been widely criticised as being mere cosmetic changes, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten labelling the new scheme “a con job” with little potential for real-world impact.

Shorten also noted that the majority of occupations excluded under the new scheme haven’t been used to issue 457 visas for over a decade, and asserted that under free trade agreements the government has signed or planned to sign, 77% of foreign workers employed under the new visa system would be free to be offered jobs without the requirement for labour market testing.

Image courtesy gov.au

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