The latest 457 visa stats were released recently. Overall, visa lodgements are down over 37 per cent in the six months to December 2013 compared to the same period the year before.
Don’t be fooled by anyone claiming this as evidence for anything. The program is not responding to a general economic slowdown nor is this a response to ALP policy reform in 2013. Instead we are still in a period of subdued demand as everyone applied for 457 visas back in June 2013:
Visa fees increased last July by up to $3500 for a family of four. This led to the largest ever month of 457 visas lodged with the Department of Immigration. It is going to take a few more months to resume normal visa lodgement activity. Even in the past six months, you can see a slight increase in the month to month activity figures.
Away from the overall program, there are emerging problems. One of these is the growing share of Cooks and Cafe Managers as a part of the program. In the six months to December 2013, these two occupations accounted for over 10 per cent of the entire 457 visa program, a total of 2,750 visas (Table 1.18).
Despite the fall in overall visa grants, both of these occupations grew from last year even with the loss of approximately 13,000 jobs in the Accommodation and Food Services industry as a whole (as per the latest ACTU Economic Bulletin). This signals something is not quite right for those occupations in the 457 visa program. Further evidence stems from the low salaries, despite increasing use of the occupation. Visa grants in the Accommodation and Food Services industry have a median total renumeration of $57,900, over $30,000 below the national median for the 457 visa program.
The onus is on the department to discover exactly what is going on here. Especially interesting would be to see the number of total grants which have a nominated salary of exactly at the salary threshold (currently $53,900). This threshold figure is very close to the median salary, indicating something is askew.