AUSTRALIA: 457 Visa Program

Recent legislation in Australia has seen a crackdown on the popular 457 visa program available to foreign workers. The change in legislation came after the Labor party, headed by former PM Julia Gillard, and unions, such as the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), asserted that the visa was being exploited by employers seeking cheaper workers than those found in the domestic workforce.

The legislation has raised the cost of applying for a 457 visa and abandoned tax incentives for visa holders in a bid to dissuade further applicants, while Australian employers are now required to devote more time to actively recruiting domestic workers to fill their vacancies. Such restrictions have meant that many current 457 visa workers are beginning to fall on financial hardships as many of the inducements that once made their moving to Australia appealing and indeed feasible, have been abruptly annulled.

Prior to such changes, 457 visa workers were reported to have a high level of job satisfaction, integrating effectively with the domestic workforce, with almost half of the visa holders electing to settle permanently in Australia. Now in the face of the recent restrictions and their corresponding affects, however, the situation has been rendered precarious for both 457 visa employees and their employers. Congruently, many employers in Australia are still eagerly waiting to hear the stance of the new Liberal government, led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, as to the fate of the 457 visa.

Indeed, such concern from employers, according to the Migration Council of Australia (MCA), is due chiefly to the fact that 457 visa workers play a critical role in empowering Australia”s economic growth by securing foreign business investment, while most notably generating and developing domestic jobs. Crucially, the MCA”s recent report entitled “More Than Temporary: Australia”s 457 Visa Program“, highlights how 76% of 457 visa workers help train and develop Australian workers by contributing a range of diverse skills from around the globe.

With the current government yet to indicate it”s stance on the program, the unabated financial hardships and uncertainties felt by both 457 visa workers and their employers, there exists an increasing concern as to the effect the restrictions may have on Australia”s ability to uphold its global competitiveness.

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