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There has been much said about workers on 457 visas stealing jobs from local Australian workers, with reports claiming that large percentages of those who are granted a visa are working in the Information Communications Technology sector.

Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie went on record during Q&A on May 30 2016, stating that there are no jobs in Australian as we have over a million 457s out in our workforce. capture_0

However, in truth persons working on a 457 visa are not as populous within the Australian workforce as these reports are claiming. As of March 31st2016, there were 97, 770 primary 457 visa holders in Australia, significantly less than the suggestion of Senator Lambie, meaning that in the current Australian economy, primary 457 visa holders make up less than 1% of the total population. (457 Subclass Quarterly Report 31 March 2016).

While there is truth to the argument that there a significant number of 457 Visa Holders in the ICT industry, the number is only significant in the scheme of 457 visa applicants, with the greatest percentage of 457 Visa holders working in that industry.

The Australian Industry Report 2015 stated Information Media and Technology (IMT) sector includes much of the Information Communications Technology sector, but also includes media elements such as TV, radio, print and libraries.

The 2014-2015 release of Australian Industry by the Australian Bureau of Statistics identified that at the end of June 2015 there were 170 000 persons employed within the Information Media and Technology sector, an increase of 3% from the previous year. The growth in the sector was also evidenced by a 9.4% increase in industry output (Australian Industry Report 2015).

During that same period 6990 visas were granted nominating the IMT sector as the sponsor industry under the 457 program. As of June 2015, there were 9910 primary visa holders working in the IMT industry.

Of the 170000 persons employed within the Information Media and Technology sector, only 4% were accounted for by those who had been granted a 457 Visa within the 2014/15 financial year, and only 6% of positions were filled by persons who were primary visa holders within the industry. (457 Subclass Quarterly Report 30 June 2015).

With only 6% of the total workforce within the Information Media and Technology sector being occupied by persons on a 457 visa, which means 94% is still open to the greater workforce, including Australian citizens, permanent residents, and people who are in Australia on a visa under a program other than the 457.

The 457 Subclass Report from March also identified the average base salary paid to persons who nominated the Information Media and Technology sector as being $80,600, with an average remuneration of $90,900.

There is a fallacy that companies are choosing to employ persons under 457 visas as opposed to local Australian workers as they offer cheaper labour, with employers able to pay 457 workers at a lower rate and without the necessary award benefits of an Australian citizen. A worker under a 457 visa is to be extended the same rights and pay as an Australian co-worker. Further, if a recruitment company is used in the process the costs involved to employ the person on a 457 Visa are higher, combined with the cost of an actual visa, if price is the issue it’s is actually cheaper to employ Australians.

Break the Rules… and You’ll Pay for it….

In a recent Federal Court decision, a Darwin based computer company was forced to pay a penalty of $430000 for repeated breaches of their 457 visa obligations, as well as a further $86000 fine imposed upon the director of the company. (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection v Hallmark Computer Pty Ltd [2016] FCA 678)

Workers on a 457 Visa are protected under both the Migration Act 1958 and the Fair Work Act 2009, and a sponsor company is expected to comply with the obligations established within the legislation. This includes being paid the equivalent pay to that of an Australian employee in your position and that you are paid in a manner that is capable of being verified by an independent person, as well as paid annual leave and personal leave.

457 Visa holders also have the same freedom as a normal employee. They can change jobs as long as their new employer can sponsor them. It’s also a fallacy that a 457 Visa Holder can be kicked out of Australia by their employer – the only person who has the power to kick them out is the Minister for Immigration.

Top Things to Take Away

– Total number of 457 Visa Holders make up 1% of the total workforce
– During the 2014-15 period there were over 170,000 jobs in the Information Media and Technology industry
– At the same time there was only six thousand 457 visas granted and a total of nine thousand 457 Visa holders working in Australia, consisting of just 6% of Information Media and Technology workforce
– 94% of IMT jobs are here and available to Australian citizens and Permanent Residents
– It’s against the immigration law and fair works acts to pay less than the legal salary equal to that of an Australian worker in the same position
– From March 2015 until March 2016, only 40,000 primary 457 visas have been granted across all sectors…

Purnima Kabra