Employers rejoice on 457 backdown

Published on the 06/07/2017 | Written by Jonathan Cotton

457 visa backdown

Employers and immigrants likely enthused with government visa-scheme turnaround. Middle-aged ICT specialists? Maybe not so much...

Is there actually a skilled ICT shortage in Australia? Or is it that there is a shortage of dirt cheap skilled ICT labour in Australia?

Don’t answer that, because it doesn’t really matter any longer. The former has won out over the latter as the federal government performs an abrupt about-face on its 457 scheme following much wailing and gnashing of teeth from Australian IT business groups.

Back in April, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was sure talking tough though, saying that the 457 visa scheme needed radical reworking.

Though Australia is an “immigration nation” he said, the fact remains that “Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs”.

“We will no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians,” he concluded.

To that effect, the 457 Visa program, which offers temporary work Visas for foreign-born skilled workers, was summarily scrapped and replaced with a new temporary migration system which radically reduced the positions eligible for the two and four-year visas, and removed permanent residency options for CIO and CEOs.

Suffice to say employers were not pleased. One such view came from Melbourne IT service provider Techware. Contacted at the time by iStart, GM David Sia said the impact would be “negative – it will slow our industry. I am aware that a lot of software developers and back office workers are from overseas and it will affect some IT companies. We have a skills shortage. There will be more offshoring.”

However, he also said that Techware itself doesn’t depend on foreign workers: “Australian’s mostly just want to talk to someone who sounds Aussie, particularly when they are in a frustrated state. It makes business easier – unfortunately a fact for us.”

In most government policy, the more things change the more they stay the same of course, and now the 457 scheme’s revisions have themselves been revised, looking much the same as they did before the fracas.

Long story short:

  • Two year visas will now be available to ICT trainers, ICT account managers, ICT business development managers, systems administrators, network administrators, ICT project managers, ICT sales representatives, web developers, software testers, ICT support engineers, ICT systems test engineers, network analysts, ICT QA engineers, ICT customer support officers, web administrators, ICT support technicians, cable telecommunications lines workers, telco cablers, database administrators, ICT managers, hardware technicians, and web designers.
  • Four year visas will now be available to ICT business analysts, systems analysts, developer/ programmers, software engineers, software and application programmers, computer network and systems engineers, telecommunications engineers, telco network engineers, telco field engineers, and technologists.
  • CIOs and CEOs have been moved from the two-year category to the four-year class, and allowed to apply for permanent residency after three years

“The Government recognises the importance of enabling Australian businesses to tap into global talent to remain internationally competitive and support a strong national science and innovation agenda,” Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said in a statement about the skilled worker migration visa last week.

Furthermore, the whole affair was kind of done on purpose, he said. “The occupation lists are designed to be dynamic. Revisions to the occupation lists are just one element of the Government’s reforms strengthening the integrity of Australia’s employer sponsored skilled migration programmes and raising the productivity of skilled migrants.”

Is there really a shortage of skilled ICT workers in Australia? And does Australian innovation and growth suffer as a result?

How you feel about the issue might reveal something about just where you fit on the food chain.

Many middle aged technology professionals report grave challenges finding stable, well paid employment in the industry, as employers enthusiastically import lower-paid (and often lower-skilled) workers in bulk, filling positions cheaply, and leaving experienced Australian professionals priced out of the running.

Either way, the government’s turnaround ensures that, when it comes to employment dynamics in the Australian ICT sector, the negotiative power still very much resides with the employer.

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