Figures show foreign worker visas rising
Jessie Marcilang, from the Phillipines is working in Australia on a 457 visa at Melbourne's Werribee treatment plant. Photo: Penny Stephens
The federal government says the latest figures for 457 visa applications back the need for a crackdown, with almost 10 per cent more applications and 6.6 per cent more visas granted.
Immigration Minister Brendan O'Connor says the figures support the decision to take action to close loopholes in the 457 program to ensure that local jobseekers are not disadvantaged by unscrupulous employers bringing in temporary foreign workers.
"These January figures show that after the traditional December lull, 457s have continued to increase," he said in a statement.
"At January 31, there were more than 105,000 people in Australia working on temporary 457 visas. That is an increase of 22.4 per cent compared to January 2012."
Mr O'Connor said the overall trend was clear - more people were coming in on temporary skilled worker visas at a time when the unemployment rate was flat, not falling.
The minister said that was particularly so in the IT industry where 457 visas have increased by 68 per cent, while vacancies for local IT workers were decreasing.
The 457 visa scheme was introduced in 1996 to allow local business to fill skills shortages with overseas workers able to stay for up to four years, bring their families and travel in and out of Australia as often as they want.
Unions have long objected to the scheme but the opposition backs it as an effective means of filling skill shortages with few rorts.
But Mr O'Connor said the government would not sit idly by while Australian citizens and permanent skilled migrants lost out to unscrupulous employers.
He said that was why the program was being reformed to ensure employment priority went to Australian citizens with requirement for training and for employers to justify their need for a foreign worker.