IT employers are in favour of 457 visas, while many local workers say they are overlooked for jobs which are filled by temporary visa holders and drive salaries down. Photo: Louise Kennerley
Despite increasing disquiet over the use of 457 visas to import technology workers into Australia, employers have defended the practice saying it creates innovation and opportunity.
Information communication and technology professionals decry the temporary working visa category for driving down salaries and destroying opportunities for skilled workers while they sit on the bench looking for jobs. The IT industry was even accused of 'rorting' the system together with wider industry employers back in March, but this was later disproven.
Parliamentpassed a bill, in the last sitting in June, requiring businesses to prove they have tried to look for local workers before turning to the visa scheme.
But technology employers insist 457 visa holders are a vital piece of the labour market puzzle.
Dean Robertson, the founder of Mexia, a software consultancy with 11 staff, including two on 457 visas, said while some locals may be kicking their heels, qualifications alone don't equate to employability.
While anyone can get the former, the latter requires a combination of technical skills, work ethic, willing attitude, team work, realistic salary expectations for the job required and availability within a reasonable timeframe, Mr Robertson said.
"The people all moaning that they can't get a job in IT just don't seem to get that they need to be useful to their employer by satisfying all of the above criteria, not just being qualified in a technology."
Mr Robertson added the 457 visa program brings much needed competition to the jobs market by cutting the costs of commodity IT roles and providing employers with greater access to experienced, specialist workers, as needed.
And they don't necessarily take jobs away from willing locals either, said Andrew Thomas, founder of infrastructure consultancy Thomas Duryea.
His firm employs 120 staff, around five per cent of whom are 457 visa holders, typically in senior consulting roles earning north more than $120,000 a year.
"I take the view that it isn't a zero-sum game," Mr Thomas said. Rather, the presence of overseas talent can contribute to the creation of a thriving ICT hub.
The 457 visa programs allows for "freer and smoother access to talent, no matter where it comes from," Mr Thomas said.
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