20 February 2009

Experts suggest cuts to temporary Australian visa program

Following predictions that the unemployment figures in Australia could reach an extra 300,000 by 2010, the Government has been warned to reduce the numbers of 457 visa holders in Australia, reports The Australian.

Monash University demographic expert Bob Birrell has warned that the rising unemployment rates would not be helped if the Government continues to allow record numbers of skilled migrants and temporary Australian visa holders move to Australia during the economic difficulties.

The Senate recently approved a second stimulus package designed to protect over one hundred thousand jobs and create nearly the same, but Professor Birrell feels this would not amount to much if temporary Australian visa holders continue to take Australian jobs.

He feels that the 457 visa program is providing a back-door for temporary residents to take up permanent residency and add to the fattening Australian workforce.

"People at the lower end of the spectrum are becoming permanent residents," Professor Birrell said.  "They're vulnerable to exploitation because the employer knows they're not going to quibble with what he's offering them because they're desperate to get the permanent resident nomination."

Professor Birrell also claims the current economic climate is giving employers extra incentive to employ cheaper overseas labour before hiring local Australians, although the Government asserts its commitment to ensuring this does not occur.
The Australian migration research is in response to the Government's decision in December last year to give priority to those skilled migrants who have organised work in Australia and those who have a job on the Migrant Occupations in Demand List (MODL).

During the 2007-08 financial year, the Government accepted nearly 60,000 overseas workers under the 457 temporary Australian visa category, a number which excludes their families, and about 90 per cent of the 17,760 migrants that were awarded permanent residence from their employer were 457 visa holders.

The problem with this, according to Professor Birrell, is that the 457 visa holders do not have strict language abilities tests and the employers have less strict regulations regarding the employment of local workers.

A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) said yesterday that the 457 visa program had already reacted accordingly to the financial slowdown, and that plans to introduce market rates for temporary visa holders would make hiring overseas workers a less attractive option for Australian employers.

"Figures show that application rates for subclass 457 visas in January 2009 are now 30per cent lower than in September 2008, when the economic downturn struck," the spokesperson said.

The Minister for Immigration Senator Chris Evans is also considering restricting the Australian skilled migration program to reduce the number of people emigrating to Australia.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.

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