The topic of 457 visas is back in the news this week, with a review recommending the scheme change English language requirements while reducing labour market testing. Just how many IT workers end up coming into Australia on 457 visas?
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The proposed reforms come from an independent review of the 457 visa scheme. The report from that scheme highlights that information and communications technology (ICT) is one of the most active fields where 457 visas are used to recruit workers from overseas. Here are the numbers of people approved in ICT-related roles amongst the top 20 occupational categories. (The figures are for the financial year; the 2013-2014 figures only cover until May 2014.)
|1||Software and applications programmers||3456||5227||6576||5269||4560||5160||5341||4560||3725|
|6||ICT business and systems analysts||147||179||187||167||447||1383||1957||2069||1596|
|20||ICT support and test engineers||0||0||0||0||0||377||654||706||587|
Between 2005 and 2014, 43,874 software and applications programmers were approved under the scheme — the highest number for any category. But just what proportion of the workforce do 457-holding ICT workers represent? The report has some indicative figures from 2011, drawing on the census from that year:
|Occupation||Total in 2011 census||457 holders||% 457/total|
|Software and applications programmers||61350||6014||9.8|
|ICT business and systems analysts||20647||1212||5.9|
|ICT support and test engineers||7002||367||5.2|
|ICT sales professionals||12380||541||4.4|
Employers who wish to use a 457 visa have to demonstrate the role can't be filled locally. The proposed reforms would ease those requirements for larger firms with higher-paid vacancies, while maintaining some scrutiny on lower-paid roles. The government has said it will consider the reforms but hasn't made any commitments.
Much of the controversy over 457 visas stems from claims that the system is exploited to underpay workers and reduces job opportunities for Australians, especially during a period of high unemployment. Supporters of the scheme in tech circles argue that some roles simply can't be filled with locals. The counter-argument to that is that training for ICT needs to improve.