Workers on 457 visas: Evidence from the Western Australian resources sector
National Institute of Labour Studies
Faculty of Business and Law
School of Business / Centre for Innovative Practice
This article shows that in 2011–2012 the Australian resources sector was challenged by sharp demands for experienced skilled workers. These shortages reflected the limited pool of specialised Australian skilled labour willing to relocate to Western Australia, the falling numbers of workers taking up apprenticeships and traineeships, and the lack of experience of new graduates. Under these conditions, resources firms actively sourced overseas skilled labour on temporary 457 visas. In 2013, the landscape is changing in that some resource projects have tapered off, Australian workers have relocated to Western Australia in larger numbers, and access to skilled labour via the 457 visa has decreased. It appears that resource firms are using the 457 visa as a temporary response to deal with genuine skill shortages. However, the research here suggests that Australian workers may be subjected to coercive comparisons with overseas labour willing to work harder and longer in poorer conditions.