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Skilled migration with 457-visas needed to prevent wage blowout

Australian employees forced to compete for the shrinking pool of skilled workers will need to pay more to attract staff or turn to skilled migration using the Federal Government’s 457-visa program, according to KPMG’s Skilled Migration Survey 2010.

457-visaThe survey, completed by 268 listed and private companies in September, reveals the practices of Australian companies in the recruitment and retention of skilled migrant workers under the Federal Governments 457-visa program.

Karen Waller, Head of KPMG’s Migration practice, said that the problem of skill shortages is high on the radar because the economy has returned to positive consumer sentiment and unemployment continues to fall.

“Queensland and South Australia are suffering a skill shortage because they have been less inclined to engage in the Federal Government’s 457-visa scheme. In contrast, companies in Western Australia also feel a squeeze on headcount but are using skilled migration much more aggressively,” Ms Waller said.

“The 457-visa offers businesses flexibility in meeting temporary skill shortages. Up to half the people entering Australia under a 457-visa have subsequently been granted permanent residency. For both employers and workers, 457-visas offer the advantages of a try before you buy system,” Ms Waller said.

Recent figures from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) show that the number of 457 primary visa holders in Australia as at 30 June 2010 was 68,400.

Looking further ahead, four out of five respondents felt that Australia’s ageing workforce would impact their businesses within the next five years.

“The exodus of baby-boomers from our workforce is accelerating but businesses have started to forward plan for this and support the generational shift within their employment strategies. Eighty-six percent of respondents are actively training Australian employees as a first option to help overcome this,” Ms Waller said

Nearly two thirds of the surveyed businesses believe government could better leverage its skilled migration program to support population growth.

“The challenge for government is to ensure there is independent and rigorous discussion about what role skilled migration plays in Australia to help businesses grow,” Ms Waller added.