Take up of visas booming under Gillard government
The 457 visa was introduced in 1996. It allowed skilled people to temporarily work in Australia if an approved employer sponsors them. They can work from three months to four years. Since its inception, the program has undergone many changes, but continues to be responsive to the labour market. Currently, Australia’s progress is sound, as program usage has increased significantly, demonstrating how important the 457 visa is in the growing Australian economy.
Australia was one of the few countries who managed to maintain a consistent growth rate in their 2011 GDP. This is due to fact the financial services sector in Australia played a huge part in this. Finance and investment accounted for 11% of the GDP, followed closely by mining contributing 9.6% of the GDP.
Australia’s investment funds sector also contributed to Australia’s growth, with one the largest pools of consolidated assets under management valued about AUD $1.8 trillion in the 2009-2010 financial year. It is reasonable to believe Australia’s skilled temporary and permanent programs are a key factor behind the resilience and strength of the nation’s economy which continues to outperform most other OECD countries. There is no doubt migration is integral to sustainable economic development.
As stated in The Australian recently, there’s an increase in demand for the 457 visa under Gillard's leadership – up from last year when the global financial crisis led to a softening in the demand in the labour market and a corresponding decline in 457 visa grants. The program is on track for an even larger increase in the coming year as the need for skilled labour in Australia increases in line with the growing economy and increasing demand, particularly in the resource sector.
“Emerging skills shortages, posing a risk to business growth in some parts of the Australian economy, have increased demand, resulting in the strongest year on record for the subclass 457 visa program”, as stated by the Immigration Department’s annual report. The increasing demand in industries can be seen in construction, with the turn over been more pronounced, up 78% of last financial year.
In the past year, the number of people applying for a primary 457 visa rose from 39.7% and the number of primary visas granted increased 38.2%. From a policy perspective, this shows the program has responded quickly to the demand of employers.
The only area of 457 visas where take-up has been slow is for flood reconstruction. In January, Canberra aimed to have a significant amount of 457 visas to be handled to skilled foreign workers to help rebuild the Queensland flood crisis, but by June, only 30 visas had been approved.
However, not everyone is happy with the results. Unions remain unhappy with the increasing number of 457 visa granted. With the ACTU recently pushing for new limits on its use to force companies to train local workers. This included campaigns against exploitation of short-term foreign workers, yet the number of employers monitored, visited, sanctioned, warned or referred to other agencies by the Immigration Department fell in 2010-11 for the third year running.
Overall, the main trend for 2010-11 year was an increase of growth 457 visa. If current employment conditions continue and businesses struggle to find sufficient skilled Australian workers, the 457 visa program will bridge the gap and offer employers access to skilled workers in the coming year.
The current state of the program makes it an effective tool for businesses to access skilled employees, while at the same time ensuring the training and employment of Australians is the first priority for businesses.