Not quite right: The Australian and 457 visa data

The Australian, on 457 visas:

EMPLOYERS have recruited 37,620 foreign managers, professionals and tradespeople this year, despite a growing pool of 191,000 unemployed Australians qualified for the same jobs.

Official data reveals that while 67,000 Australian technicians and tradies search for work, employers have brought in 10,210 foreign trade workers on 457 work visas during the first nine months of this financial year. Employers also looked offshore for 19,260 professional staff, despite a pool of 83,700 Australians unemployed.

And 8150 managers were sponsored on 457 visas, despite 40,200 Australian managers on the dole queue.

(the rest of the story is a tit-for-tat union/business stoush which I’ll sit out of this time)

To me, this reads as if 37,620 new managers, professionals and tradespeople – who happen to be foreign citizens – have arrived in Australia to work on 457 visas in the 2013-14 financial year.

I infer this because of the specific mention of “recruited” workers and how employers looked “offshore”.

But this isn’t quite right. This table shows the number of 457 visas granted to people outside of Australia:

1 Managers   3 605
2 Professionals   11 135
3 Technicians and Trades Workers   3 716
4 Community and Personal Service Workers    138
5 Clerical and Administrative Workers    229
6 Sales Workers    97
7 Machinery Operators and Drivers    175
8 Labourers    33
Not Applicable   23 425
Skilled Meat Worker    144
Not Specified <5
Offshore Total   42 699

The article claims 10,210 tradespeople were ‘brought in’ to Australia when in fact the number was 3,716.

The article claims employers ‘looked offshore’ for 19,260 professionals when in fact the number was 11,315.

The article is less certain on managers, of which 8150 were simply ‘sponsored on 457 visas’ (true), but the number recruited from offshore was 3,605.

Note the numbers in the article are all inflated to how many people total were sponsored by employers – not the figure for those recruited from offshore.

This is the corresponding result for visas granted to people already in Australia, i.e. the number recruited onshore:

1 Managers   4 542
2 Professionals   8 120
3 Technicians and Trades Workers   6 489
4 Community and Personal Service Workers    406
5 Clerical and Administrative Workers    568
6 Sales Workers    182
7 Machinery Operators and Drivers    87
8 Labourers    38
Not Applicable   12 736
Skilled Meat Worker    49
Not Specified <5
Onshore Total   33 218

As you can see, over 40 per cent of 457 visas were granted to people in Australia already.

Unfortunately we lack more precise data on these people. But I believe it is likely a majority of these people already work for their employer, probably on either an existing 457 visa, a working holiday visa or a student visa.

If this is the case, there is no ‘recruitment’ occurring. We know for certain these people did not materialise ‘offshore’.

Further, if this is the case, we can debate whether this is a good practice or not and whether these people should lose their jobs and be given to Australian’s who are currently unemployed.

But we shouldn’t debate the numbers as reported by the Department of Immigration. The report in the Australian overestimates the number of people actually entering the labour market by a large proportion. Onshore visa holders are already living and working in Australia.

These files are easily available and even in handy pivot table form on the Departmental website.

For the only national broadsheet to not put some context around them is disappointing. And we haven’t even touched on adding in some historical comparisons to understand trends in either unemployment or visa grants.

I cannot imagine a similar standard of reporting concerning economic growth or unemployment statistics.

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