Despite recent controversy, Australia’s 457 visa program is working well, with foreign workers enjoying high levels of job satisfaction and many being used to train Australian workers, a comprehensive new report has found.
Published by the Migration Council Australia (MCA), a non-for-profit organisation dedicated to enhancing the productive benefits of Australia’s migration programs, the More Than Temporary: Australia’s 457 visa program report analyses a survey of 3,800 visa holders and 1,600 businesses involved in the program.
It reveals that overall, 457 visa holders enjoy high levels of job satisfaction and integrate effectively into the workforce and into Australian society.
When asked how they felt about their relationship with their employer, 88 percent indicated they were either ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’, whilst more than seven in ten wish to become permanent residents in the future.
The survey also revealed that more than three quarters (76 percent) of migrants were using their skills to help train and develop local Australian workers.
Commenting on the findings, MCA chief executive officer Carla Wilshire says the program plays a vital role in maintaining Australia’s competiveness in a world where 98 percent of innovation occurs beyond our shores.
“Four out of five multinational companies are using 457 visa holders to train and develop Australian workers” Wilshire says.
“Temporary migration does not just fill skills shortages; it addresses skills deficits and plays a central part in workplace development at the enterprise level.”
Whilst the report found high levels of compliance with program rules overall, however, it did identify a number of areas where the monitoring framework could be improved.
It found, for example, that in two percent of cases, the amount of income foreign workers reported receiving was less than minimum amounts specified in regulations, and recommends the federal government increase sponsorship and nomination fees to act as a ‘price signal’ to encourage employers to seek Australian workers first and also to make more funds available to increase regulatory enforcement efforts.
The report also says more needs to be done to help spouses and dependents settle effectively into the country.
The latest report comes amid ongoing debate about 457 program, which unions claim is rife with abuse but employer groups say is essential for Australia’s workforce needs.
In the building and construction industry, groups such as Master Builders Australia say the program will be necessary to fulfil looming skills shortages toward the middle of the decade as building activity picks up and demand for carpenters, electricians, roofing specialists and other tradespeople increases.
Immigration department figures indicate that around 6,090 applications were granted for building and construction workers throughout the nine months to March, accounting for just over one in ten of the total number of workers granted 457 visa status during the period.
Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Officer Innes Willox says the latest report debunks myths of widespread program abuse.
“It (the report) exposes as baseless the misleading claims that the visa program is being widely rorted and that large numbers of the visa holders are being underpaid” Willox says.
“The finding that two percent of the around 105 000 visa holders were allegedly paid under the set minimum threshold is far from the vastly inflated claims of systemic rorting.”