How Many IT Workers Score 457 Visas?

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?

Worker picture from Shutterstock

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.)

Rank Occupation 2005-
2006
2006-
2007
2007-
2008
2008-
2009
2009-
2010
2010-
2011
2011-
2012
2012-
2013
2013-
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
17 ICT managers 120 150 198 189 268 756 798 876 699
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.


Comments

    I work at a company which has been using 457 to bring in foreign workers. All new hires are foreigners. The problem is the people who use this method to bring new people in are foreigners themselves and are bringing in family and friends. I have several friends and ex colleagues who are struggling to find work and are leaving the industry as a result. There is an oversupply of skills in Australia right now.

    I am an applications programmer with 20+ years of experience and have been out of work for about 6 months. My old workplace still has 457's on the payroll cause they are cheaper, yet have been retrenching locals who have exactly the same skillset and are doing exactly the same job. The biggest problem is political bi-partisan support for 457's when the population do not actually want it...

    of course, foreigners steal your job.. but maybe, if someone without contacts, money or speaking the language steals your job, you're shit

      Thats a red herring and you know it. There is a clear financial incentive to hire cheaper contract labor, combined with a greased runway to get them here. It is actually quicker to hire a foreign person then a local one, and it is hurting our economy.

      If you're job is being taken by a foreign person, it's because your company cares about cutting cost. That is all.

        It is actually quicker to hire a foreign person then a local one, and it is hurting our economy.

        I'm curious as to what you're basing this statement on, because it's just plain incorrect. Hiring an immigrant worker on a 457 visa is expensive and time consuming. My source is personal experience and direct observational experience of friends/colleagues.

        Meanwhile, also based on personal experience and observation, hiring 'local' labour is inexpensive and quick. I could be wrong about other industries, but this article is about IT, and that's the context I'm referring to.

    Where did you find that data, i was interested in seeing what it would look like for other occupations

    Foreigner here :)
    I opted for Independent Permanent Residency. Lived and studied in Australia for about 2.5 years before I applied. Process took around a year. For PR, I think the standards are tough but fair.

    Last edited 11/09/14 2:04 pm

    I'm a permanent resident, but I spent four years on a 457 visa. I can tell you this, nobody brought me in on that visa, and I didn't come here looking to steal anyone's job. I came for a holiday, was doing some contract work, and an employer offered me a permanent position with the 457 sponsorship.

    As I'm sure most readers will agree, Australia is a wonderful place to live, and I'd have been stupid not to accept that offer. But I'll tell you this also; I was underpaid compared to my colleagues. Not significantly, but enough to make me question it. And the response I got was that the 457 sponsorship was considered a significant financial incentive, and this was why I was no receiving the same bonuses as my peers.

    The complaints being made about the 457 visa program relate to cases like mine, only worse (my situation really wasn't so bad). The fact is, this program does lend itself to abuse of the workers afforded this privilege. The problem is with employers taking advantage of immigrant workers. The issue is not related to devaluing Australian workers or the Australian workforce.

    The proposed reforms are designed to better protect immigrant workers, not prevent them from coming to Australia and/or obtaining sponsorship. Anyone supporting this review/reform needs to make sure they understand which side of the fence they're coming down on; based on some of the comments I've seen/heard, I don't think that's the case.

    I think rather then debating over who lost the job and why !
    Australia should invest money into Tech R&D, which creates jobs for the struggling economy.

    It is because before globalisation employers were forced to use locals and now they have a choice to pick form works around the world. This is why the locals feel that their jobs are taken away, the reality is that the locals may not be qualified for the job.. the funding for education is dropping, school kid’s literacy levels are dropping.. it is the survival of the fittest job market now. Just have to cope with it.

    Our employer has gone way overboard with 475 workers.
    You can't go in the bathroom without running into someone washing their feet in the basin, or another rinsing their mouth next to them, the spitting, the floors are disgusting in the cubicals. But we've been warned by our employer, that we must be inclusive and can't make any comments that can been deemed offensive. This is a bank that we all hold in very high regard.

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