Australian unions question the need to employ more overseas tradespeople

by Ray Clancy on June 2, 2014

in Australia, Australia Immigration, Jobs in Australia

The need for overseas workers in many jobs including nursing, carpentry and engineering is being questioned by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

At a time when the Australian government is consulting on the future of the 457 visa, which is commonly used to employ overseas workers in the short term, the ACTU claims its overuse means that hundreds of thousands of Australians can’t get jobs.

‘Australia needs more, not less regulation of the 457 visa system,’ said Oliver.

The union is concerned that up to 350,000 Australian workers are searching for jobs in the very occupations where employers are continuing to use 457 visa workers.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver said rates of unemployment and underemployment were rising in industries where bosses argue they can’t find local workers. ‘Nurse graduates, carpenters, cooks, engineers, welders, fitters and motor mechanics are among the workers who tell us they are having trouble finding work, while employers turn to 457 visa workers to fill those positions,’ he claimed.

‘At the same time, you have shameful levels of youth unemployment and the government looking at ways to make it easier for employers to hire temporary workers, particularly under the 457 scheme,’ he added.

He argued that although Australia needs foreign workers, particularly under permanent migration as these workers fulfil an important role where there is a genuine shortage, there is also room for asking whether the 457 visa programme is achieving its aim or if it’s being abused.

‘In February this year, Australia recorded the highest unemployment rate in over a decade. Even more concerning, youth unemployment is currently at its highest levels in 10 years. Australia needs more, not less regulation of the 457 visa system,’ said Oliver.

‘If you ask the nurse graduate who can’t get a placement, a cook, a construction worker, an IT worker, they will tell you that all they want a fair go. Why shouldn’t Australians be given priority access to the local jobs for which they are qualified? Employers must be obligated to make a genuine effort to advertise a job locally,’ he explained.

‘We can’t be importing workers and creating a market glut that forces up unemployment, shuts out local workers and halts opportunities for young people trying to get into the workforce,’ he added.

Oliver pointed out that in 2011/2012, the number of 457 primary visa applications increased by 33.4% from the previous year. The total number of 457 visa holders in Australia jumped 26.4% from 72,050 to 91,050 in the same time period.

At the same time, the number of people out of work increased by almost 40,000 as unemployment went from 4.9% to 5.2%. Unemployment has also increased again, reaching 5.7% in June 2013 with a further 77,000 people out of work compared to the same period 12 months before. Over the same period, 457 visa applications increased by 13.5% and the number of 457 visa holders increased 18.6% from 91,050 to 107,970.

The greatest use of 457 visas is for trades and technician workers and professionals. The latest figures for 2013/2014 show professionals made up 48.4% of all visa grants, while technicians and trade workers made up 25.7% of all visa grants.

As at 31 March 2014, there were a total of 50,100 professionals working in Australia on 457 visas and 32,910 technicians and trade workers out of a total of 111,780 primary 457 visa holders in Australia.

The ACTU said there are currently 67,000 Australian trades and technician workers unemployed and 77,400 underemployed—some 8.5% of the 1.691 million trades and technician workers.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

robert August 8, 2014 at 1:19 pm

The Abbott government – not to mention the coalition kiss asian boots when it comes to the 457 visas

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