Developing Countries Go For 457 Visas

Developing countries go for 457 visas

COMPUTING professionals led the list of top 15 occupations for primary 457 visa grants in 2006-07, the Immigration Department said.

Paul Maley
March 17, 2008

Britain contributed the most workers in the past six months, followed by India

As the new temporary foreign workers change the face of Australia's workplaces, business groups last week called for an immediate boost to skills training positions and unions expressed concern that increasing reliance on developing-country workers risked lowering general wages.

Immigration Department figures obtained by The Weekend Australian provide a snapshot of temporary foreign workers brought into the country on skilled migrant visas, which allow the employees to stay for up to four years.

The figures show the breadth of the skills crisis runs across the economy, as industries ranging from the healthcare sector to communications, mining and manufacturing import skilled workers to fill vacancies.

Workers from India, China and The Philippines are flooding into Australia's hospitals, factories and construction sites as employers increasingly look to developing countries to combat chronic skills shortages.

In 2006-07, 46,680 temporary permits, known as 457 visas, were issued to foreign skilled workers.

Health and community services accounted for 16 per cent of all 457 visas issued, communication services 10 per cent, property and business services 10 per cent, manufacturing 9 per cent and construction 9 per cent. Professionals exceed the number of other 457 classes, making up seven of the top 10 skills categories.

But as employers search for workers, Australia is increasingly turning to developing countries to fill its vacancies. Britain contributed the most workers in the past six months (6130), followed by India (3670), The Philippines (1870), China (1850) and the US (1570).

British workers were most likely to work as doctors and nurses or in the property and business service sector. Americans were concentrated in communications.

But the use of Chinese workers grew rapidly, particularly in manufacturing. Indian workers were concentrated in communications and health, while workers from The Philippines were imported for building sites and manufacturing.

The rate at which the visas are issued continues to grow. While 46,680 visas were issued in the 12 months to June 30 last year, 25,750 were issued in the six months to the end of December – a 10 per cent increase on current trends.

While the resource-rich states of Western Australia and Queensland have been driving the so-called “two-speed” economy, the slower growth states of NSW and Victoria took the greatest numbers of 457 visa holders.

The chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout, said the 457 program had grown quickly and business had become “dependent on it”.

“But the economy is also very dependent on it and we're going to be very dependent on it if we want to keep the economy growing,” she said.

The director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, Bob Birrell, said the most striking trend was the high take-up rate among citizens from the developing world.

“In the six months since the end of the financial year, China has overtaken the US. That's a pretty good indication of where the program is going,” he said. “Five or six years ago, that was not the case.”