Startup News & Analysis

Job search activity shows Aussie startups were hit hard by 457 visa changes

Dominic Powell /

An analysis of job search and immigration data by Australian jobs website Indeed has revealed Australian startups were significantly affected by the much-protested 457 visa changes implemented by the federal government, with the number of skilled work visas granted from July to December 2017 dropping by a third compared to the same time in the year prior.

Specifically for the tech sector, the number of visas granted for developers and programmers dropped 31%, along with a 50% drop for analyst programmers and a 10% drop for software engineers.

The lack of visas granted didn’t quell international enthusiasm for Australian jobs, however, as Indeed reports international hopefuls looking locally accounted for 8.1% of job searches for Australian positions in 2017, up from 6.4% in 2016. Additionally, searches from overseas workers with terms such as “visa” or “457” have tripled since 2015.

In a statement, Indeed’s chief APAC economist, Callam Pickering, said the criticisms of the visa changes from large Australian tech companies such as Atlassian were valid, and by introducing further hurdles for skilled international workers to relocate locally, Australia has become a less attractive destination.

“Job seeker interest is certainly there and, if the Australian business sector had its way, so too would be the jobs. But the process of moving from job seeker to skilled migrant has become slower and more arduous. What is more, limited pathways to permanent residence may encourage overseas job seekers to look elsewhere,” Pickering said.

“The tech industry faces trouble on two fronts: Not only does it face skill shortages, but it frequently needs workers who don’t fall neatly into any of the existing skilled migration occupation categories. A restrictive and inflexible skilled migration program puts the Australian tech sector at a clear disadvantage.”

Indeed has also warned against current visa restrictions that prevent 45-year-old and up employees from easily gaining a visa, believing older workers have much to offer when it comes to mentoring and improving young startup teams.

The Australian government recently revealed its response to the tech sector’s complaints, taking the wraps off a one-year trial visa called the ‘Global Talent Scheme’ visa, which will facilitate the hiring of five positions per year for STEM-focused startup companies on a visa with a three-year pathway to permanent residency. However, the applicant is required to have at least three years experience in the relevant field before applying.

Numerous members of the startup community endorsed the trial visa, with startup founders calling it “well researched” and “hugely beneficial”. However, opposition innovation minister Ed Husic told StartupSmart it is a “paper mache” solution.

“After making the shock announcement 12 months ago that impacted the whole tech sector, the best the government could come up with after all the concerns that have been raised was a one-year pilot program,” Husic said.

“It’s not a fair dinkum set of changes, and it’s clearly been rushed through.”

NOW READ: Government urged to reform Entrepreneur Visa after receiving only one applicant in over 12 months

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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is the lead reporter at StartupSmart.

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