Professor Raja Junankar

Calls for reforms of the contentious 457 skilled entry visa – used by the mining industry to bring in long-stay temporary workers – may not work.

Plans to fast track migrants for the mining industries won’t help these industries find workers – because few people using a 457 work in mining. Changing the rules for the 457 visas would be an odd, short-sighted decision.

Over 93,000 overseas skilled workers are currently living and working in Australia on 457 temporary visas. Australian trade unions are pressurising the government to create legally binding agreements that would require employers in the mining industry to advertise jobs to try and find Australian workers and Australian residents before being allowed to recruit international workers to come to Australia on temporary work visas.

If there is really a shortage in workers due to the mining boom, then we should look at bringing in more plumbers and electricians, whereas the 457 visas mainly go to professionals.

 Looking at the data on the ‘class 457’ visas in 2011 72% of class 457 visas went to managers and professionals, and only 21% to trades and technicians. The Australian states that received the vast majority of class 457 visa applicants was in New South Wales – which isn’t known as a big mining area. WA gained 23%, and Victoria 20%. Not Queensland, or the Northern Territory.

 The data for the 457 visas seems to go against what we are told they are for. The 3 main industries getting 457 visas are construction, health services and ‘other services’: nothing connected to mining. Also if we look at where people have come from that get a 457, the list in order is the UK, India, Ireland and then at 4th, the USA.

Professor Raja Junankar is a Professorial Visiting Fellow in Economics at the Australian School of Business, and an Honorary Professor in the Industrial Relations Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.