PM slams IT industry in 457 visa debate

Gillard doesn't find it acceptable that IT is such a big area of imported skills

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard

Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is looking at cracking down on the abuse of 457 visas and singled out IT as the largest sector for using temporary overseas workers.

Gillard made her speech on job security at a conference held by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), in Canberra, where she specifically brought up the debate on the abuse of 457 visas. A lot of technology companies use this visa to get access to skills required.

She singled out the largest sector for temporary overseas work was the IT industry.

“It is just not acceptable that information technology jobs, the quintessential jobs of the future, the very opportunities being created by the digital economy, precisely where the big picture is for our kids, should be such a big area of imported skills,” she said.

The IT industry has managed to bring in 5800 temporary workers in just seven months, compared to just 4500 Australian IT undergraduate student completions in 2011, Gillard said. She highlighted some facts stating that the rate of temporary overseas work was growing quicker than employment rate, with temporary overseas worker numbers up 20 per cent and employment growth rising one per cent, compared to the same time last year.

Gillard said there were also 107,000 people working in Australia as temporary overseas workers.

“That in itself is evidence of a problem: the number of people coming here to fill short-term gaps should not be growing twenty times faster than employment overall,” she said.

The Labor Government is putting in place a package of reforms to ensure that temporary skilled workers only come from overseas when there is genuinely no local worker who can fill the job, Gillard said.

This includes raising English language requirements for certain positions, businesses using 457 visas will be required to strengthen training requirements; market salary exemption to rise from $180,000 to $250,000 and on-hire arrangements for 457 visa workers will be restricted.

“I want temporary overseas skilled work to be dealt with as a policy issue about jobs, wages and working conditions – not just immigration management,” she said.

“Naturally, we will work with business to make sure genuine skill shortages can be addressed, but we will not allow Australian workers to be denied the opportunity to fill Australian jobs.”

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Tags 457 visa programPrime Minister Julia GillardIT careers

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16 Comments

IT policy dude

1

Government's latest report shows IT related 457's are about 3% of all 457's...when will this stupid government stop beating up IT. They just don't get IT.

http://www.immi.gov.au/media/statistics/pdf/457-stats-state-territory-jul12.pdf

Reality Bites

2

If there is a problem with those entering under 457s, it a problem of the Government's own making and lack of foresight.... so it's a bit misleading to now try to move the debate to how they are fixing the situation.

Unfortunately the Labor 'heartland' laps it up.

It should be more like... sorryyy, but we stuffed up (again), but we'll fix it, promise.

peter

3

About time this issue got some public attention - it's been suppressed for too long. I'm a professional with almost 20 years experience in large-scale, enterprise IT and see no hope for locals trying to build a lasting career in IT these days.

Unfortunately, the IT industry has changed radically since the dot-com bust. It has now become a race to the bottom with cheap labour flooding the markets of developed nations in the western world. The reality is that employers prefer cheaper, more compliant workers.

I can say that I've seen repeated abuses of the 457 visa system with increasing frequency since the year 2000. Combined with wholesale offshoring of entire projects, there is very little in the way of real projects that are left to employ locals in Australia.

I'm sure anybody that has spent any time in IT can relate when they hear hiring managers say that they can hire 4 indians for the price of 1 local. We just can not compete on those terms, but unfortunately those are the terms that large employers most value so they seek to continue to manipulate the visa system to their advantage.

Sad, but this is the what IT people face on a daily basis. My job has been offshored or replaced with 457's on more than one occasion. As a 40 year old, I am almost unemployable in technical roles because I am 'too experienced' - read too expensive!

There is no skills shortage - only a shortage of locals willing to work at slave-labour rates.

dave

4

there are plenty of Aussie IT workers looking for work or looking to be upskilled into one of these postions. Its just lazy to use 457's train up the locals first.

Max

5

A total beat-up by a shameless PM who is clueless about the Aussie IT industry. Bring on the election already, please.

David

6

Large companies have been filling IT roles with sponsored 457 visa for years. The main reason is to undercut market rates to drive down costs. Large IT OS supplies offer to supply IT workers at a discounted rate and can supply in one week.
Quite often the supplier makes a bigger margin. Large banks retailers and government department IT department have large percentage of workers on 457 visas.

Balanced

7

Agreed with some with some on this topic. Ban 457s for say 1 year for the IT industry as this is for the most part an abuse by many larger companies to save money and not invest in graduates and current workers - there is not a skills shortage in IT as I work in IT Recruitment and therefore consider myself an expert in IT labour rates. The industry is already under pressure from off shoring and bigger moves to the cloud - these 2 things are simply cost saving measures and nothing else and along with the 457s its getting harder for IT workers; even those with skills. Finally Julia you have got something right and you will have near 100% full support of the IT workers in this country.

Gerard

8

There are a couple of things missing here:
1. It's not cheaper to employ people on 457s; their rates must match the market rate.
2. Training budgets are mandatory, another cost.
3. legal fee's and the liability of the employer for the employee - the employers take a large financial risk if the emlpoyee goes rouge.

Sure it's cheaper if the employer off-shore's 100 jobs to India; but that's got nothing to do with 457's.

It would be nice if the PM addressed the root of the problem and establish exactly why it is, despite all the extra effort (and in my opinion extra cost), that employers are taking this more difficult path to employ people under a 457. Just attacking an industry is totally counter-productive.

First it was Mining that was under attack by Labour, now it seems the IT industry is next.

This is another gross distraction from the woefully negligent leadership this country has; GET THEM OUT - before your industry is next in the firing line. Six months almost exactly until we can start repairing the Labour Damage.

Brett

9

I agree with Peter 100%. I have been in the IT industry for 17 years and am struggling to find work for my business.
One of the biggest issues is the Australian dollar is so strong and the world economy so flat that Australia is very attractive for overseas workers, who are prepared to come here and work for a lower rate and send most of their earnings back to India or China. the biggest problems are still to come when the Australian Dollar is back to 60 US Cents, the world economy is stronger and the IT industry is in tatters as we have not trained young Australians in IT and people who can't find work now have left the industry.
457 visa's are supposed to fill a skills gap not a cost gap!

Otter in IT

10

I'm not sure where this information is being obtained, according to the latest report (to 31-Jan-2013) these figures dont appear to be accurate.
refer to: http://www.immi.gov.au/media/statistics/pdf/457-state-territory-summay-report-jan13.pdf

Tom Brown

11

There are statistics and ...
The stats referred to by Otter and Dude do not show specifically what the 457 applicants were doing, only their skill and the industry. I cannot find a 3% referred to by Dude.
The argument about 457's is about the IT industry in general and is the same argument about the mining industry.
That of bringing in workers allows businesses to manipulate those workers and that it allows businesses to not address the issue of training Australians to do those jobs.
Both major sides of politics use this argument for the same reason.

Sam

12

Gerard echoes an informed view of the 457 imported IT workers. In general the rules governing 457 temporary workers ensure that minimum I.T salaries stay above $61000 per annum. On an average they are around $75,000 p.a.
Most people are unaware that Australian businesses save large money when they outsource these jobs outside the country, and not when they bring in temporary workers.
Majority of the Indian IT companies find it very expensive to bring in temp IT staff to work in Australia compared to working from India.
As the world economy has changed and educated Indian and Chinese IT and engineering professionals race to pole positions in the global markets, it is self defeating to assume that somehow Australian IT jobs will be protected by stopping or curtailing temp IT workers.
For those with an open mindset, suggest that you check out how many Australian professionals from the ICT sector are working in the Asia Pacific region, India, Middle East, and surrounding countries, over past several years. And surely there has not been any major debate on them replacing locals yet, although there is a plentiful supply of locally trained engineering and technical IT resources.

Paul

13

The disapointing thread to all these comments is that no one here has mentioned how expensive it is to do business here in Australians...if you charge a first class price then you need to supply a first class service.

Bigger Picture

14

Incredible to have such a short sighted Government running our country trying to buy votes in desperation.
As suggested by Gerard above there are many restrictions around a 457 Visa most specifically the dollars have a minimum value and must be at market rate, ie the same you would pay a local.
The idea of a one size fits all is also short sighted. As a smaller business I constanty stuggle to find the right people for a job in IT if a 457 comes along that fits the requirements it meets our business needs. Typically these people are looking to immigrate to Australia and we already have a large immigration policy so they are likely to be a resident looking for work within a few years anyway.
For large organisations if they are abusing the system then yes such practices need to be looked at in isolation, however with large organisations the option may be offshore, in which case all the jobs and the economy spend (people buying food and clothing and taxes) goes offshore as well. There are already thousands of IT jobs going to offshore outsourcers. Make the 457 process more difficult and more jobs will likely go offshore.
If this government could look at the big picture of running the economy and stop focusing on buying jobs we would not be having the debate around a tiny percentage of the workforce.

gnome

15

Reading the government and fellow traveller line on this, it's still hard to see what the problem with 457s might be.

There's a lot of reference to work being done more cheaply by overseas people, but as Gerard rightly says, this has nothing whatever to do with 457s.

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the main or only reason that the political wing of the union movement is trying to push these porkies is because 457 people are probably less likely to join unions, and thus contribute to the ALP.

Josh

16

It is in your best interest to train and skill yourself, if you expect companies to do this for you, your career is doomed. If you are smart enough to be in IT you should be smart enough to realise that IT changes faster than any other industry. Do some research and find out what skills are in most demand and retrain yourself. If you think employers wont pay what you are worth as an employee, create a company and do consulting via your company. My 2cents.

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