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Australia Businesses IT Politics

Australian PM Targets Imported IT Workers 224

beaverdownunder writes "A debate 'down under' has started to rage surrounding the importation of 'temporary' IT workers on so-called 457 visas, with the Prime Minister promising to bring in tough new restrictions on foreign workers in a pre-election pledge, despite evidence that there are insufficient numbers of Australians to fill the skills gap. Some quarters argue the foreign workers are necessary to drive growth in Australia's IT industry, while others have cited examples where large Australian companies have imported workers needlessly, displacing qualified Aussie personnel."
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Australian PM Targets Imported IT Workers

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  • by jacobsm ( 661831 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @05:40AM (#43180665)

    And how is this different from the controversy over this exact same subject here in the US, and I'm sure in other countries too?

    • by helobugz ( 2849599 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @05:51AM (#43180713)

      It's different because the aussie leadership actually recognize it as a problem. In the US it's just business as usual.

      • No, they haven't (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 15, 2013 @06:04AM (#43180747)

        You need to actually live here to understand the politics of the situation. The problem is that the government has lost control of illegal immigration (purely their fault, because they're the ones who dismantled a border-control regime that worked), so in order to signal to the electorate that they're very very very concerned about illegal immigration, they're... cracking down on legal immigration.

        People on 457 visas have average annual incomes safely over ~$90k, which makes sense - the 457 program is targeted at areas of skills shortage. There is no comparison with the H1B visas in the US.

        • FYI, non-Australians... the parent comment is either misguided or more likely an anonymous LNP social media astroturfer. Australia doesn't reach anywhere near the levels that other countries have of illegal immigration mainly because you HAVE to get on a leaky boat to get here illegally (other than visa overstays, which is a much bigger problem which has never had a satisfactory solution here). The government have not 'lost control', just illegal arrivals have increased marginally because the current govern
          • Please bear in mind also that they're not actually illegal arrivals, merely classed that way in the political debate (a point I should have made initially).
            • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
              Part of the political issue is that, depending on your definitions, they are illegal arrivals. So you present them as such or not, without defining your use of words, and try to make the other side look silly for their choice of words.
          • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

            (other than visa overstays, which is a much bigger problem which has never had a satisfactory solution here

            Visa overstay has been "solved" in many other places. Why doesn't Australia just look around and pick one of the other working systems for cracking down on it? Oh, they have the same problem as New Zealand. "We want to do anything we can to crack down on this, unless it affects tourism, in which case, we'll ignore all our rules to allow it." When letting people in for tourism is more important than keeping them out for intending to break the law, or catching them when they do, then there is no problem t

      • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @06:32AM (#43180837) Journal
        If you are growing GDP just by importing workers you're often not growing GDP per capita. Which means you're not actually making the country's people richer on average.

        It is of course usually harder to grow GDP by increasing productivity per person.
        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          If you only let in workers that produce more than average, then you are increasing your per-person GDP.
      • by SourceFrog ( 627014 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @07:00AM (#43180931)
        You do realize that any reasonably non-crap programmer ALREADY basically competes with you no matter what country you live in. I know "out of sight out of mind" but programmers don't just disappear because they live in a different country, and the market is pretty well globalized. So you can either let programmers create jobs in another country or contribute to your own economy.
        • You do realize that any reasonably non-crap programmer ALREADY basically competes with you no matter what country you live in.

          Only to a limited extent. There are still plenty of reasons to want employees who are local, or at least national. Otherwise there would be no IT people employed in Australia or the US at anything other than poverty wages. And if we truly lived in a globalized world, the same would be true of everyone from doctors to carpenters. Generally I'm staying out of the 457 visa debate because as an American I don't understand enough about the politics and the situation, but the principle I described is widely appli

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          Why is it that Slashdot hears "it worker" and thinks "programmer"?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's different because:

      1. Slashdot is reporting on a political topic that isn't US-centric. That's different enough on it's own to be celebrating.
      2. And because it means we get to enjoy that crocodile-tooth hat icon. I mean... who wouldn't want to see more of that?

      • it means we get to enjoy that crocodile-tooth hat icon

        To each his own mate (that's Australian right? I saw it on a Foster's commercial), but I'd rather see the next Elle MacPherson. Come to think of it, even at 48 the old one is looking pretty good.

    • It's different inasmuch as Labor is in a hole WRT the slowly approaching election and are trying to win back blue collar voters that they have been sneering at for years by pushing an issue that is completely irrelevant to those same blue collar voters. I just can't figure out if Gillard actually thinks that flushing Labor's moral high ground on immigration is a good idea or if she's just trying to stick the knife into whoever takes over after she is dumped as leader. At least the second option would show
      • by drsmithy ( 35869 )

        Labor "flushed" their "high ground" on immigration (and, indeed, pretty much everything else) a decade ago chasing LNP votes.
        Since the early 2000s, Labor has been little more than the Liberals with a 5-year time delay.
        If you want a soft-left party in Australia (ie: Labor's traditional position), your only option is the Greens.

        • I suppose whether the Greens are soft left or, as I would call them, hard left, is a matter of where you're standing. However, Bob Brown's commitment to regulation of the media is hardly the sort of stuff I expect out of a center/left party. It's more a hard right/hard left kind of idea.
    • And how is this different from the controversy over this exact same subject here in the US

      Well, in Australia the Prime Minister is actually OPPOSING visas that cut native IT workers out of work (and artificially lower wages). In the U.S, by contrast, the President is falling all over himself to say how great they are, and ask for even more [].

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        That's why the US is ruined. They'd spend more money on importing labor than training up internal people. Eventually, the US will be 100% service economy, supporting the rest of the world.
    • And how is this different from the controversy over this exact same subject here in the US, and I'm sure in other countries too?

      There were 4500 Australian IT undergraduate student completions in 2011, and 5800 visas.

      Perhaps if they'd had 10,300 Australian IT undergraduate completions, they would have had 0 visas.

      Just because you have 10,300 Australians out of work and 10,300 IT jobs open doesn't mean that you can employ those out of work people as IT workers if only 4500 of them were qualified to do IT work.

      This is just politics as usual.

    • Because we have a welfare program that qualified IT workers will use if foreign workers are taking local jobs. This means more taxes will be spent to give these people something to live on. I understand getting unemployment in the US is more difficult.

    • is this where they hide the dingo and the youngest is sent on a quest to find it?

  • by Silicon-Surfer ( 1412381 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @05:44AM (#43180677)
    This is just a ploy by a desperate PM way behind in the polls and facing a wipeout in the upcoming federal election. She's trying to gain some mileage by playing on the fears of Australians, who are suspicious of imported temporary workers. It doesn't matter whether there is a skill shortage or not, the public doesn't actually get the real facts...
    • by Andrew Kennedy ( 2866469 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @07:20AM (#43181019)
      The "real facts" are that both sides do this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, we are all much better off if the corporations can import a cheaper workforce. It's trickle-down economics! We will all get richer if we abolish the protectionist policies that secure our jobs, because they're just another sort of socialism standing in the way of the rising tide.

    • by bug1 ( 96678 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @07:36AM (#43181073)

      This is just a ploy by a desperate PM ...

      Oh lovely, its blame Julia time again, do you have a spare pitchfork and ditch the witch badge ?

      the public doesn't actually get the real facts...

      Many in academic circles have stated that there is a clear media bias against the government. I guess its Julias fault people watch MSM too ?

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      yeah.. the big companies will still manage to import whoever they want for whatever they want. they got an entire department of people sorting out the arrangements to make it happen.

      but smaller companies get hurt by the restrictions. say a game company would like to hire an european or indian dude? for a company of under 10 people it's hard.

  • by OffTheWallSoccer ( 1699154 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @05:46AM (#43180691)

    Whether or not there is a shortage of native IT workers in Australia, companies could potentially switch to off shoring the jobs if the government prevents importing of workers.

    • by twisteddk ( 201366 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @06:18AM (#43180795)

      Yes, or.... Which has been the debate over here, the hired labor costs maybe underbidding the local labor costs. Thus displacing local talent because of the cost. Most businesses doesn't run on philanthropy after all, which makes it a legislation issue to protect local jobs (albeit fighting globalization would seem futile)

      We've had examples of companies (well at least one that got some press) where they show one contract to immigration services that shows the foreign IT hires as getting at least minimum wages. but the local hires also had another contract stating how much they would ACTUALLY get and that they'd be fired or fined if they did not lie about their salary to immigrations.

      I was appalled, and quit the company shortly after. I continue to be amazed at the lengths people will go to turn a profit.Professional businesses should be able to see the huge impact illegal or immoral activities can have on their sales, brand or reputation in the market.and no secret is safe enough that it will never become public knowledge.

      • You should report that company, I'm all for immigration but that kind of deceitful fraudulent crap helps nobody.
    • by Electricity Likes Me ( 1098643 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @06:31AM (#43180835)

      Where it's possible they already off-shore jobs. If it could be off-shored to India they'll do it.

      The jobs which are here are the ones they can't move overseas, or, more usually, where they know the local talent is good and are trying to war the price down with imported labor that isn't actually as productive - which is exactly the same problem as in the US with H1Bs.

      More importantly, the ability to import cheap foreign labor means a lot of businesses which should be employing graduates or running apprenticeship programs aren't. Which means allowing it to continue unchecked means Australia winds up being no more valuable then cheap foreign labor in the first place, which takes away the only thing we have going for us.

      • Where it's possible they already off-shore jobs. If it could be off-shored to India they'll do it.

        Thanks for making those points, but I'll add one more. The H-1B visa actually facilitates off-shoring rather than preventing it. There's a reason The Indian Commerce Minister himself called the H-1B the outsourcing visa. About half the H-1B's in the US go to foreign owned body shops that then rotate those people back to their native countries when they've learned enough over here.

    • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @06:42AM (#43180869) Homepage

      Companies could potentially switch to off shoring the jobs whether the government does everything, nothing, or any point in between.

      The only way to prevent that is to make labour and production as cheap, disposable, exploitable and polluting everywhere as it is in the worst country in the world.

      Do you want to keep arguing the point, or just shush up now?

      • Any company that could save money by moving overseas has already moved overseas. The ones left are still here because there's an advantage to being here and close to their customers. They will never leave.
        • Right, because the technological, ecological, economic, and regulatory considerations that make something profitable today will never change. That's why whaling and buggy-whip manufacturing are still such lucrative markets, and the ratio of off-shored to local jobs has remained constant for the last 10,000 years.

  • by Bronster ( 13157 ) <> on Friday March 15, 2013 @05:48AM (#43180699) Homepage

    Well, this is going to be an extra-large shit for us, where me spending 2 years in Norway at head office was significantly easier than bringing people over here for 6 months at a time for skills exchange. HR tells me that Australia is the hardest country in the world they've tried to give people "bridge the world" temporary transfers to. Insular much?

  • by XopherMV ( 575514 ) * on Friday March 15, 2013 @06:09AM (#43180765) Journal
    The problem is not a shortage of engineers. The problem is that software companies don't want to pay competitive salaries. Were salaries higher, that would attract capable workers into the software field such as engineers or physicists. It would also further increase the number and quality of students studying computer science.

    There's a reason interest in software development work peaked in the late 1990s. That was also when salary increases peaked.
    • I disagree, I think software companies would love to pay a competitive salary, as long as ALL of their competitors are paying it too. Your problem is that your competition is now international, and Australia has a very high cost of living. In the late 1990's the internet hadn't properly taken hold in CEO's brains so your competition for software was still mostly domestic (international companies like Microsoft, IBM, etc were the exception).

      Politicians don't seem to get is whilst high tech jobs are the fut

      • The causes of the high cost of living needs to be tackled

        The only issue is that you have a high cost of living relative to other countries. You suggest that Australians in a particular field of work will have to work for less (in inflation adjusted AUD), but there is another way: lower the exchange rate. Because of your large natural resource exports, you have a bit of a Dutch disease [] issue, but I notice that for 2012 you're back to a trade deficit (which Australia has often run). That suggests the your currency is overvalued in international exchange.

        An overva

      • Your problem is that your competition is now international, and Australia has a very high cost of living... Why would a company want to pay an Australian developer a high rate of pay when he can pay an Indian developer a lower wage and the Indian guy gets to live in the lap of luxury? Why would a company or consumer want to buy software developed in Australia, when Indian, American or European software can be bought cheaper over the net? (Region locks have plusses and minuses in this case)

        The competition for commodity software is international. However, the companies selling this kind of software have such a first-mover advantage that they're entrenched into their market positions. For example, just about no one's developing a serious competitor for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc because Microsoft got there first. Google's close, but they've spent years developing and still don't have the same capabilities.

        The other side to consider is custom software typically run by medium-sized companies

    • by dcw3 ( 649211 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @09:17AM (#43181673) Journal

      This depends upon what you call competitive. If your competition is only within your borders, then you have a level playing field. When you go global, you're suddenly competing with people who don't have the same overhead, standards of living, taxes, etc., etc. So, the question for all nations to answer is if they're willing to forsake jobs for their own people, increasing unemployment, though benefiting corporations, by lowering their costs, but also driving down salaries for those still employed within their borders. It's an issue that should be agreed to at a national level.

    • The solution is to make the imported workers permanent residents or even citizens. Imported workers work for substandard wages because they're better than their home country, but it's nearly impossible for them to switch jobs once their here. If that H1B or 457 expires or they lose their job, it's back to wherever they came from. Give them residency stability and the ability to switch jobs, and they'll expect the same pay as you or I.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They get everywhere! Did you hear, even some government jobs are taken by them.

    Oh, the irony.

  • Abuse is rife (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 15, 2013 @07:19AM (#43181017)

    Anyone in the IT industry in Oz who has not seen 457 visa abuse, especially by the large system integrators, is simply not paying attention. Bringing in dirt cheap labor who are on-sold to customers at a very high profit margin is rife. Some of these people are good, some are bad. But all are basically being used to reduce IT wages and increase the profit margins of the SI's.

    Here's a question: if there is an IT skills shortage, why have IT wages been flat for five years.

    And the opposition trying to play this as racism is beyond offensive, given their demonization and wolf-whistling around refugees. I'd like to think Abbott couldn't go lower, but I am pretty sure there are much further depths of depravity and hypocrisy that man and his supporter are capable of.

    Plus their fans in News Ltd (aka. News Corp elsewhere).

    • Here's a question: if there is an IT skills shortage, why have IT wages been flat for five years.

      That gets to the heart of the matter. Labor follows the laws of supply and demand. Workers supply labor. Companies demand labor. The point where the supply curve and the demand curve meets is the wage. Were there an actual shortage of labor supply, we'd see increasing wages. The fact that wages are not increasing means there is no shortage of labor.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 15, 2013 @07:21AM (#43181021)

    As a teenager, we were encouraged to study engineering and computing. IT jobs were sold to us as genuine careers. So we spent our four plus years at uni only to find that outsourcing is the new black, and all our study is for naught. Thanks.

    • well CS is not IT so you start out with a skills gaps.

      also tech schools and learn on the job are liked by real IT pros but not are not liked by HR.

      The outsourcing firms cheat to make there people look better on paper and when things get messed up they may try to hide it under language barriers or say we foiled your specs to the letter (that works poorly)

    • Indeed. Feels kind of like someone pulling the rug out from underneath you...then you take a look around, and realize that people prefer scams and fraud, inefficient ways of doing things, because it's power, their power, and that's why technology is hated.

    • We're all SUCKERS...
      Should have got MBAs so those degrees required 4 years of Calc to get in!!!

    • Change "uni" to "college" and you'll hear the same from many Americans - and both are right.
  • More accurately (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @07:42AM (#43181093)

    ...despite evidence that there are insufficient numbers of Australians willing to fill the skills gap at slave-wage rates.

    Just like the BS about US corporations whining they desperately need more H1B visas, this is about increasing profits by replacing living wage jobs with the modern IT equivalent of indebtured servants; compliant, desperate folks willing to work way too hard for pennies on the pound / dollar. And if they ask for a raise or complain about 60-hour work weeks? DEPORTED.

    • Re:More accurately (Score:5, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Friday March 15, 2013 @08:16AM (#43181257) Homepage Journal

      I was hoping someone would have left this comment, and was not disappointed.

      Visa workers are just a way for companies to never pay for training. In the long term, that leads to your workers being unqualified, a lot of turnover, and a lot of unemployment. Congratulations for following us in everything we do, Australia.

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

        Visa workers are just a way for companies to never pay for training.

        They don't even need visas for that anymore. Now, I'm not in IT, but as someone who recently left grad school, when applying for entry level jobs I have fond myself coming up against people that have 10-15 years of experience applying for the same job, in one case that I know of actually 20 years experience. And most job opening that I have seen label the positions as "entry level" but then still specify 1-3 years of experience, which is decidedly not "entry level". These days companies seem to have a co

        • by labnet ( 457441 )

          From our hiring experience, the overqualified ones are usually too expensive and the ones out of uni often useless. (Note we have taken on many graduates as a small percentage are very good)

  • by onyxruby ( 118189 ) <<ten.tsacmoc> <ta> <yburxyno>> on Friday March 15, 2013 @08:05AM (#43181185)

    Okay, I've been on both sides of this as I've been to Australia three different times for work (but not with the visa they talk about). When I was brought in I was brought in because they had fewer than 10 people in the entire country that were certified to do what I was doing at the time (there were only a few hundred total worldwide). There well and truly was a shortage of the skills they were looking for and they could not have possibly met that need in country.

    Cases like mine are the exception though, and most visas issued for workers to come in and perform IT work are issued to avoid hiring native workers. Someone who is working on a visa is much more likely to be able to be pressed to work additional free hours, won't have costs like retirement and is really easy to get rid of if you don't want them anymore. In short they are viewed as disposable workers that do more at less cost.

    There is a relatively easy and balanced fix for these problems (it's a problem when large quantities of natives can't get work and your importing people to work). If you really want to measure if there is actually a shortage of workers for a given field all you have to do is monitor average pay and benefits for native workers. If there is a genuine shortage you will see pay and benefits rise accordingly (market dynamics). When average pay and benefits rise to a certain level you allow for more visas to be issued. This avoids a hard cap while allowing for genuine shortages to be addressed without decimating native workers careers.

    I also think you should allow people who come in like this to stay for a limited number of years with a fast track for citizenship. If they don't obtain their citizenship after X years they return home. /Loved Australia

    • If there is a genuine shortage you will see pay and benefits rise accordingly (market dynamics).

      Thank you! Someone who's willing to apply basic economics. For some odd reason that isn't done by the H-1B proponents in this country. Maybe I'm overly cynical, but could that be because the objective data doesn't support their position?

      And as to people who have genuinely rare skills or are truly exceptional, there are lots of visa categories here in the US for them, and I know no one who objects to their use.

  • In each case, businesses want a captive worker - ideally a slave - and contract workers like this are the means for accomplishing that goal.

    How about making it so that nobody legally allowed to work can be forced to a particular work arrangement(e.g. can't be forced to be a contractor unless you really want to be one)?

  • This kills me. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BVis ( 267028 ) on Friday March 15, 2013 @09:29AM (#43181771)

    Whenever I hear people whining about a "skills shortage" I call bullshit. There's no "skills shortage", there's a "people who will work for low wages" shortage. If companies wanted to hire domestic workers, they could, they just don't want to. They love it when supply-and-demand benefits them, but when the workers try to do the same thing (salaries go up when the demand for the skills goes up), well, we can't have that, can we. Those executives might have to forgo that second vacation home or have to settle for a BMW instead of a Bentley.

  • He was on TV as a corporate expert on what we could do to deal with the remarkable rate of job losses at the peak of the Recession. His ingenious solution was to increase H1B visas. That's just the mentality of the people in power and the people with access to their ear holes.

  • "Fellow Australians... " []

    Have a look at yourselves in a mirror.

    GROW UP.

    This whole discussion is an unseemly airing of our collective political "dirty linen".

    Oh, sorry, we do that every so often, and make the rest of the world wonder what being "down under" (standing on our heads) does for the collective blood-flow to the brains, and also wonder shy they would bother to visit and get the same malady.

    As I said, GROW UP!

    Please... ?!?!?!!!!!!

  • the foreign workers are necessary to drive growth in Australia's IT industry, while others have cited examples where large Australian companies have imported workers needlessly, displacing qualified Aussie personnel."

    Oddly, this seems paradoxical as probably both are true. Australia probably needs to import IT workers, just not to displace current workers.

  • As someone living in Perth who has been trying (and failing) to find a job in software development (or IT more broadly) for quite a while now, I support this idea if it means people like me get hired instead of some foreign guy here on a work visa.

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis