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.
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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.”