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Australia – Tougher visa rules may change labour hire arrangements

27 February 2013

Australia’s immigration minister Brendan O'Connor has announced plans to tighten the use of temporary skilled worker visas, known as 457 visas. He argued that the scheme was being abused by some employers and reforms are therefore needed.

This includes restricting labour hire arrangements. Innes Willox, chief executive from the Australian Industry Group, criticised introducing tougher rules.

“We will look very closely at what the government means when it states that it will restrict labour hire arrangements for 457 visa holders. The labour hire industry is a major and reputable industry that plays an important role in the recruitment and placement of 457 visa holders,” he said.

The minister said that tightening requirements for the visa scheme would benefit domestic employment. There has also been criticism of the technology sector exploiting loopholes to hire cheaper foreign workers, especially from India.

The chief executive of the Australian and New Zealand IT contract and recruitment industry body ITCRA, Julie Mills, said that on-hire arrangements of 457 visa workers are already restricted.

“For all recruiters, including ICT, the opportunity to bring in skilled overseas workers requires a rigorous assessment of need via the 457 labour agreement process – so the changes being discussed, I would suggest are already entrenched in the process for recruitment companies,” she said.

Mr Willox added that businesses rely on a foreign workforce to make up for skills shortages. “Unemployment is still at historically low levels and there are many areas where local skilled labour is simply not available. Employers will always prefer to hire locally but we still don’t have the right skills in the right places and employers have been forced to turn to immigration programs to supplement their local workforce,” he said.  

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