Temporary skilled immigration visas have returned to the spotlight this week, with Brendan O’Connor describing new figures as “concerning”.
The immigration minister, commenting on data published yesterday (April 28th), said the number of people on the lowest-paid 457 immigration visas has close to doubled when compared to statistics from the same period last year.
The latest figures show there were 105,600 holders of this temporary visa as of March 31 – a 19.2 per cent increase from 2012.
“If demand for these visas continues at the current growth rate, there would be 350,000 temporary workers from overseas on 457 visas in Australia in three years’ time,” he explained.
“That’s more than the population of Wollongong and at a time when locals are looking for training and promotion opportunities, this growth is unsustainable.”
According to Mr O’Connor, the most concerning trend is the rise in 457 growth in sectors where the average pay is comparatively low – including accommodation and food services, as well as retail.
These industries grew by 99 per cent and 75 per cent year on year respectively, which the minister argued was “out of step” with the overall performances of these industries.
“We must take action to stamp out any rorts,” he explained.
“We have taken action to stop employers misusing the program, and are giving Fair Work inspectors the powers to act on 457 abuses.”
He stressed the importance of ensuring locals Australians have access to jobs and training, claiming it is not a debate about legitimate migration to the country.
The statistics showed growth in 457s trended downwards from August last year, although Mr O’Connor said demand is still strong and the number of holders remains high.
However, shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison said the Gillard government has failed to show any systematic exploitation of 457 visas.
“Labor’s smearing of skilled migration is a desperate attempt to distract attention from their chronic border failures, that this year will see more than 20,000 people arrive illegally by boat,” he was quoted by The Australian as saying.
The Gillard government has faced criticism for its intended 457 reforms, including allegations that senior advisers close to the prime minister have been brought to Australia from overseas using the system.
Earlier this year, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey told reporters in Sydney it was perplexing that Australian alternatives were unavailable to work alongside the prime minister, making Labor’s stance contradictory.
Source: Migration Alliance