Less workers coming to fill skills shortage jobs; survey

The flow of skilled foreign workers into Australia to take jobs in skills shortage sectors such as healthcare and mining looks set to dry up unless changes are made to the s457 immigration system, a new survey of recruitment firms reveals.

Recruitment industry bodies have been lobbying the Federal Government to reverse changes introduced mid last year that imposes costly training requirements on recruiters that bring workers into Australia under s457 visas.

Recruiters are likely to have to dramatically cut the number of workers they bring into Australia if the training requirements are retained, according to the survey of more than 100 recruitment firms by the Recruitment Services and Consulting Association.

It found that of almost 6000 workers recruiters planned to be brought in to fill positions in key skills shortage areas, 3586 of those will not go ahead under the current regulatory arrangements.

The areas that will face the biggest squeeze are mining and healthcare, both of which could see their flow of foreign workers cut by over 65%.

The survey also found that most of the workers set to arrive under s457s are in senior technical or managerial positions, a finding that RCSA policy spokesman Charles Cameron says undermines claims that s457s are about undercutting Australian workers.

“If the policy was designed to respond to claims of exploitation of the skilled workforce they have certainly missed their mark; they are knocking out the technicians and managers keeping those services going and in many cases creating employment for Australians elsewhere,” Cameron says.

One recruitment firm that has been hit by the changes is Ultimate Skills, a supplier of workers to Western Australia’s labour hungry economy. Chief executive George Gelavis says sectors such as healthcare and mining are already struggling with severe skills shortage conditions.

“Potential clients who are in the on-hire sector of the market can no longer access this source of labour as the visa requirements and the labour agreements simply are not in touch with the reality of how this sector operates, effectively annihilating this source of business for us,” Gelavis says.

In other industrial relations news, research by the Australian Safety and Compensation Council has found that 146 people died in workplace accidents in 2006-07, a 16% increase on the previous year.

Mining remains the most dangerous industry for workers, with 8.8 deaths per 100,000 workers. But the transport and manufacturing industry was primarily responsible for the increase in deaths, the two sectors being responsible for 31% of all work-related fatalities.

The research also revealed older workers are much more likely to suffer a fatal workplace injury. Almost a quarter of all people who died at work in 2007-07 were older than 55, despite making up just 15% of the workforce.



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