Research shows migrants essential

A REPORT into the use of 457 visas in the resources sector has found temporary skilled workers played a small but vital role in ensuring resources projects were built on time and budget.
Research shows migrants essential Research shows migrants essential Research shows migrants essential Research shows migrants essential Research shows migrants essential

Noel Dyson

Called 457 visa workers in Western Australian resources industry the study found there was a genuine reluctance for experienced workers to move from Australia's east coast to the west.

The study identifies three key responses to the skills shortages in the resources sector: training Australian workers and developing diverse workforces; greater incentives to encourage workers to move interstate; and the continued use of overseas skilled workers as a short-term solution.

The study, led by Edith Cowan University School of Management researcher Dr Susanne Bahn, investigated the costs and benefits of employing workers on temporary residence subclass 457 business visas.

One of the things that piqued Bahn's curiosity was why resources companies would spend up to $65,000 per person to bring in skilled migrants when the federal government was offering incentives to entice workers west across the Nullarbor.

"Participants indicated that they had encountered reluctance from Australian recruits about relocating to WA," she said.

"Moving away from family and friends, the fly-in, fly-out working arrangements, a lack of social infrastructure and accommodation with reasonable rents and the perceived high cost of living were the main reasons," Bahn said.

"The construction phase of the resource projects underway in WA relies on a steady supply of skilled and experienced labour from across the country.

"The representatives interviewed found a shortage of skilled workers in Australia, which led them to source temporary workers on 457 visas to top up their labour force for short periods of time.

"Participants in this research recognised many benefits of integrating their local workforce with skilled temporary migrants, such as the transfer of international experience and unique knowledge and skills to the design and construction of Australian resource projects.

"This ensures Australia remains a world leader in terms of innovation and technology."

National resource industry employer group the Australian Mines and Metals Association, which part funded the study, is calling for wider acknowledgement and acceptance of the issues surrounding 457 visas and enterprise migration agreements.

"Government figures show that of the 45,000 new jobs in Australian mining created in 2012, 98.7% were filled by Australia workers," AMMA executive director, industry Minna Knight said.

"However, this industry study demonstrates that temporary migration schemes are still very important to Australia's overall skills strategy.

"Temporary skilled migration is particularly important in those remote areas of Western Australia where this study identified is very difficult to attract the total number of skilled workers necessary.

"The study shows many cases where skilled workers based in the eastern states were reluctant to move to the west due to a lack of regional infrastructure and general lifestyle preferences."