Skilled migrant visa applications drop

EMPLOYER applications for skilled foreign workers have dropped steadily since August 2012, with the latest Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) monthly report showing a four per cent fall in visa requests.
Demand for the controversial 457 visas began decreasing in June 2012 and the number of approvals for temporary resident visas dropped 12 per cent in the same period.
DIAC spokesman Sandi Logan said the numbers had dropped for three consecutive months.
“This movement demonstrates the 457 visa program’s responsiveness t the changing needs of the Australian economy,” Mr Logan said.
WA is now the second-largest user of the program after NSW, with most workers coming from the UK, the report showed.
“While the subclass 457 visa stock figure is still high, new take-up of the program is declining, particularly in the construction and mining industries that have driven much of the recent growth,” he said.
“Use of the program has fallen across a number of industries that have traditionally been among some of the other big users of the program, including health care and social assistance, information media andtelecommunications.
“For example, in the 2012-13 program year to November, 3900 applications were lodged in construction, representing a fall of three per cent from the same period last year.
“A similar trend is evident in mining where 2400 applications were lodged, representing an 11 per cent fall.”
The program remained concentrated on recruiting skilled managers with 64 per cent working in jobs that required at least a bachelor’s degree.
“Remuneration levels also demonstrate how successful the program is in targeting highly skilled workers,” Mr Logan said.
“Average total remuneration of those 457 visa holders granted visas this program year to November was $89,800. “Managers and professionals, who together accounted for 66 per cent of the total number of visas approved this program year, had combined average total remuneration of $109,000.”
The program has been a contentious topic for groups such as the Australian trade union, who claim it encourages companies to employ cheaper overseas workers. CMFEU national construction division secretary Dave Noonan said the government should stop the program as local workers continued to lose jobs.
“At this rate we’re looking at around 15,000 457 visas in the trades in 2012-13”, Mr Noonan said.
“This increase in the use of temporary visa workers is ridiculous at a time when 68,000 jobs have been lost in construction in the last year and many skilled construction workers are looking for work.
“There is still no obligation for employers to try and find local workers before they use 457 visa holders, so the system is ripe for abuse and too many employers are taking advantage of the system to get cheap compliant labour.”
Exploitation concerns resulted in changes to the program in 2009, with all employers seeking to sponsor foreign workers on subclass 457 visas required to make measurable contributions to training Australians under new training benchmarks.
Employers are also required to formally commit to employing local labour and follow non-discriminatory employment practices. Applicants in trade occupations are required to meet English language requirements, and may be required to have their skills formally assessed.
“Sponsors are also obliged to provide their overseas workers with terms and conditions of employment no less favourable than those provided to Australians, including paying them the market salary rate,” Mr Logan said.
“This obligation is backed up by the Worker Protection Act, which enables DIAC to effectively monitor sponsors, and to take appropriate action against those found to be exploiting foreign workers.”

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