457 visa rules eased prior to review

The federal government has eased the 457 skilled migrant visa regulations that mean employers will not be penalised if they hire more foreign staff than they applied for.

In 2013 the Gillard government placed restrictions on companies bringing in temporary foreign workers hiring more than they had applied for. The new move by the Coalition will allow employers to hire an unlimited number. Department of Immigration figures show 126,350 visas granted in 2012/13. Accommodation/hospitality industry employed the most of these (12.9 per cent). NSW employed more (37.2 per cent) than other states.

An independent review will be conducted for the Subclass 457 visa program as announced by the assistant minister for immigration and border protection, Michaelia Cash on 25 February. The government has empanelled a four-member group to review the overall function of the 457 visa program, due to report back mid-2014. It will examine non-compliance, the costs to employers, the sanctions on rorts and the scope for deregulation.
“The review will aim to provide recommendations on how to maintain the integrity of the 457 visa program, while not placing unnecessary administrative burdens on business,” said Ms Cash.

Industry bodies are welcoming the review and new changes. Restaurant & Catering Australia maintains it’s the first stage in addressing labour shortages in the hospitality industry. “The sector is already experiencing a shortfall of 35,800 jobs, with this number expected to increase to 56,000 by 2015,” said R&CA CEO, John Hart.

Meanwhile EC3 Global is putting out the call to people mainly in the tourism and hospitality industries to see what interest there is in job swapping to meet an expected shortage of skilled workers especially in tropical North Queensland. EC3 Global chief executive Mark Olsen said the region had been identified as one of eight national “hot spot” areas for labour and skills shortages. He said, while the pressure had eased because of the downturn in mining, the Tropical North Queensland Tourism Employment Plan was still in place to ensure there would be adequate workers at peak times. Mr Olsen said the plan hoped to fill the shortages using people within the region and also from seven other hot spots, including Broome, the red centre, Kangaroo Island, Sydney, Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island, regional Tasmania and Canberra, instead of from overseas or from other states.
Mr Olsen said it was a matter of matching people’s skills to the roles available. He said tour guides had already successfully swapped roles between Cairns and Tasmania during the peak seasons.

The plan has identified that there will be a labour shortfall of 168 skilled and 270 unskilled tourism and hospitality workers in the Far North by next year. The plan says employees in the tourism industry who represent every one in five employed in the region have a lower rate of qualification than the rest of Australia and the industry has the lowest number of students enrolled in training.

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