Career Woman

Reality check: Do 457 visa holders take jobs away from Australian workers?

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The 457 Temporary Skilled Employer Sponsored Visa program, in place since 1996, haslong benefited Australian business. Without it, it’s easy to argue thatAustralia would have struggled to compete on the global stage, due to many skill shortages in the labour space.

Since 2012, 457has operated under a demand-driven migration system where employers seek workers for identified skills shortages, rather than skilled immigrants migrating to Australia independently to look for jobs. In a further reinforcement of this change in approach, a requirement now exists for immigrants to possess high levels of English skills and employability, in order to pass the test for permanent resident status.

In a further requirement for participation in the 457 program, employers are obligated to train other Australian permanent residents or citizens within their companies, and further demonstrate that a percentage of their payroll is being paid towards this training. So in fact, through up skilling and training in the workplace, Australian workers also benefit from the 457 program as it also attempts to reduce the unemployment rate.

Given all these balanced, sensible requirements, why does the issue of 457 visa holders and jobs remain such a hot-button topic in Australia? Politicians, like the media it seems, are attempting to placate a vocal minority who, despite evidence to the contrary, continue to believe that migrant workers prevent ‘locals’ from obtaining employment. Global research published last year revealed that Australia is falling behind other countries in education which suggests our skills shortage is politically caused. Political indifference or inaction with regards to education means we have to import skills – if we didn’t then Australian businesses may be forced to move offshore.

Considering the qualifications that newly-arrived migrants are required to have and the need to receive an invitation from the government to apply, it is clear tha tforeign workers are more likely to gain appropriate employment in areas of genuine skills shortages. Such workers bring vital skills to Australia, boosting our economy and broadening our cultural heritage with it.

There is an entirely economic argument, fuelled by globalisation, that it is vital for Australian companies and workers to be exposed to new skills and modes of creativity and production lest they risk falling behind.It is also logical to prefer to welcome skilled foreign workers to live in Australia where they will pay taxes and spend in their local economy than to see Australia businesses move offshore. However, that pales in comparison to the cultural argument.

Australia is a great nation built on immigration. Our rich cultural heritage is the result of decades and centuries of magpie-like assimilation and blending. We may be a Western culture, primarily European but our unique geography, the diversity of our people and our outward looking perspective is what makes our culture so unique, so very Australian.

Working alongside new Australians from different backgrounds and cultures only strengthens what makes us Australian. It makes us more tolerant, more understanding and worldlier. Multiculturalism is bandied about and most impressions of it is a load of distinct cultures living in the same space. That’s not Australia. Sure, we all have certain aspects of our inherent culture that we don’t share with everyone but it’s all under the umbrella of Australian culture. We embrace and celebrate our differences because they make us interesting however we’re all united by Australian progeny. We have taken the best of all the cultures that our country has welcomed and combined them to make our own and there’s no reason that should stop now.

Those cultures we borrowed from in the past now look to us as pioneers and leaders. Our examples are followed and admired because we’ve managed to evolve our culture at a much faster pace. You need only look at how the UK and other countries regard 457 as a highly developed system they ought to adopt.The reality is Australia has and continues to benefit from immigration and embracing it under a smart, fair system not just helps us compete on the global economic stage but as a modern, tolerant, free and truly multicultural society.

About Melanie Macfarlane

Melanie Macfarlane is CEO & Principal of MMMigration & VETA Education Consultancy – www.mmmigration.com.au, a migration consultancy headed in Sydney, with offices located in Melbourne, Brisbane and Colombia.Immigration is a serious business and Melanie is a serious immigration law professional providing excellence of service. Nonetheless, it is also her objective to bring some lightness and fun into the process and put a smile on her clients' faces.

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