Massive Leap In Trades Behind ‘457’ Visas’ Growth (Australia)

Massive leap in trades behind '457 visas' growth
Michael Bachelard
The Age (Melbourne)
September 28, 2006

The explosion in the number of skilled temporary migrants on the controversial 457 visas has been among traditional trades: slaughtermen, welders and metal fabricators, with the bulk coming from China and the Philippines.

Figures obtained by The Age show a massive increase in trades migration has accounted for much of the growth in numbers of subclass 457 visa holders since 2002. The figures, obtained through the Senate estimates process, show that in 2002-03 there were fewer than five slaughtermen on the visas, which by 2005-06 had grown to 950. The number of metal fabricators jumped in the same period from 10 to 790, welders from 40 to 710, and motor mechanics from 100 to 540. But the number of general managers the class of employee this visa was designed for in the late 1990s fell from 1000 in 2001-02 to 780 last year.

The Age has also learned that Chinese workers searching for a new life in Australia are routinely charged up to $27,000 by agents overseas just to find them a job. “Fees charged (to applicants) vary from $A500” to about $27,000, an Immigration Department spokesman said. The details of these fees are collected by the Department and included in the applicant's case report.

It is the first official acknowledgment of the massive financial burden imposed on some people coming to Australia on 457 visas.

It is illegal for middle-men in Australia to charge applicants to come here or to charge applicants the air fare because the visa is intended to come at a cost to the Australian employer seeking specialist skills. But applicants are being charged upfront in their own country, with fees often including air fares.

The Department said it was “liaising with relevant agencies both in Australia and overseas and considering measures that might be taken” to control the practice. Options included an education campaign for employers and “encouraging employers to make all reasonable inquiries regarding these matters before they recruit”, the spokesman said.

The ethnic make-up of the migrants differs markedly according to the skills they bring. The largest single nationality brought in to work in the meat industry last year was Chinese, with 270 people. China and the Philippines were also the most common sources for welders, metal fabricators, motor mechanics and electrical powerline tradespeople. Doctors overwhelmingly come from Britain or India.

Victorian senator Kim Carr said that “for the trade occupations, the Government is drawing upon low-wage countries”.



■Metal fabricator


■Motor mechanic

■General practitioner

■Medical practitioner in training


■Electrical powerline tradesperson