Skills shortages at an “historic low”

ScreenHunter_2989 Jun. 26 08.16

By Leith van Onselen

The Government’s planned relaxing of 457 visa rules so that employers can hire an unlimited number of foreign workers under a temporary working visa, potentially opening the system to widespread rorting, is looking even more egregious following the release today of the Department of Employment’s preliminary skills shortages report, which reveals that the number of occupations suffering skills shortages is at an “historic low”:

Employers continue to recruit skilled workers without marked difficulty, and the number of occupations in shortage is at an historical low.

Shortages are more likely to be for trades (with 18 in shortage) than for professions (5).

In 2013-14, there were generally large fields of applicants vying for skilled jobs and employers filled a high proportion of their vacancies.

The number of suitable applicants has not changed markedly over the past few years, but qualitative information from employers suggests they are now more selective, overlooking some applicants who would have been considered suitable in a tighter labour market.

Almost all employers attract applicants. Just 4 per cent did not receive any interest in their vacancies.

There is now little disparity between employers’ recruitment experiences across the states and territories, as activity has slowed in the resources states.

Resource related occupations were the hardest to fill in 2012-13 but are now among the easiest, with large numbers of applicants competing for the available positions…

ScreenHunter_3564 Jul. 31 14.33

By Location:

Filling vacancies is hardest in New South Wales (66 per cent of vacancies were filled compared with 73 per cent nationally) and easiest in South Australia (82 per cent filled).

It is now relatively easy to recruit in Western Australia. This state recorded the largest increase in the proportion of vacancies filled, up by 15 percentage points over the year, to 78 per cent in 2013-14.

There are large fields of candidates in Victoria, but relatively few in the Northern Territory.

Employers in Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria attract large numbers of suitable applicants.

Employers in regional locations continue to fill a lower proportion of their vacancies than their metropolitan counterparts, but the difference has narrowed over the past year.

ScreenHunter_3565 Jul. 31 14.35

By Occupation:

The labour market has been easing in recent years, with the number of applicants, suitable applicants, and vacancies filled all increasing steadily between 2010-11 and 2013-14. This softening has been more pronounced for professions than for technicians and trades.

Employers recruiting for technicians and trades workers filled 69 per cent of vacancies in 2013-14, significantly lower than the 81 per cent recorded for professions. They also continue to attract markedly lower numbers of applicants and suitable applicants than those recruiting for professions.

While the proportion of occupations in shortage fell for both groups between 2007-08 and 2013-14, shortages remain more prevalent for technicians and trades workers.

ScreenHunter_3566 Jul. 31 14.37
ScreenHunter_3567 Jul. 31 14.39

I mean, really, the 457 visa flies in the face of the Government’s primary duty of care for its people.

Unconventional Economist

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith is an economist and has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

Latest posts by Unconventional Economist (see all)


  1. St JacquesMEMBER

    It’s all part of the plan.

    Tony Baloney’s smug faced regime is determined to SMASH the average Australian employee into utter submission. Opening up the sluice gates to 457s, etc, is just one of their weapons of choice in their war on workers.

    Know thy enemy. Tony and Co are your sworn enemies, they are the minions of the Big End of Town.That’s all any Australian needs to know about the Circus on the Hill. All else follows from that.

      • St JacquesMEMBER

        They were pretty bad but they did have restrictions, which are being removed. For similar differences, see FOFA reformed reforms.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Dr Smithy. You’re a goose mate.

        Last I checked, Labor legislated to restrict 457 visas.

      • You checked wrong smithy. They did before the last election in a pitiful attempt to get some votes. Before that 6 years of open slather.

        I thought you lefties knew all the facts?


      • drsmithyMEMBER

        You checked wrong smithy. They did before the last election in a pitiful attempt to get some votes. Before that 6 years of open slather.

        I’m glad you agree they had different policies to the Liberals, and that your claim they are just as bad is wrong.

      • Oh but you’re in denial of the fact that they would have ramped up the 457 levels again if they’d won. How much does it take to recognise that one is a useful idiot?

        The media has a blackout on the issue just as it does on any real discussion on housing affordability and mass immigration.

    • Strange Economics

      This is also killing graduate employment – in IT, Accounting, Nursing there are many unemployed graduates, while experienced 457 workers are working at a low graduate salary with 10 years experience.

      Then there’s construction, full of Irish workers, non-unionised, and rorted ripped off Asian workers where of 2 workers for 1 pay packet.
      Doesn’t add up at all-
      200K 457 visas, while there are 900 k unemployed, and 2 million underemployed ? and only 170k job vacancies.?

      This is just a way to lower labour costs for the big business – construction /bank management (IT accountant) who of course are not in the 457 visa skills shortage group.

      • flyingfoxMEMBER


        Labour gave into big business at a time where there was a shortage and the threat of big wage rises and/or work not getting done.

        Now it is just a rort. 457s are useful if you have a short lived boom like the mining construction boom.

        Now all it is doing is serving to reduce wage costs.

      • +100

        All the Indian IT Shops (TCS, TechM, Infosys) are heavily rorting the 457 system.

        Some smart ASX corporates are even doing away with the Indian IT consultancies and bringing in their own 457s directly, and making redundant the local hires who used to work here. My team no longer has even one locally hired architect, as we about 1-2 years ago we brought in a whole bunch of 457s, sacked the local hires after knowledge was transferred to the 457s, and then the company ended the 457s’ sponsorships and sent them back to work from our Indian office, so the jobs arent even here any more either.

        Half the time my team around me speaks Hindi instead of English (For about a year I was the only non Indian national in my team of 4 – I work for an ASX top 20 company)

        The only winner here is the corporation.

    • nexus789MEMBER

      You have not seen anything yet from this psychopathic government. This is the thin end of a big wedge.

      When they sign the Trans Pacific Agreement (TPP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) living standards will be trashed here as corporations will have more rights than governments. They can challenge how the government spends our money, etc.

      Further ‘Financialisation’ of the economy will ensure the middle class here will go the same way as white collar jobs in the US as professional jobs are in-sourced and off-shored. Blue collar jobs will be in-sourced (457) and/or operations will be closed down and shipped off-shore and in any event this will depress wages. No value creation….all driven by a cost down myopia.

      • flyingfoxMEMBER

        Given that Tones muse is Rupert (or should I say Tones puppetmaster), is it surprising.

  2. reusachtigeMEMBER

    457 Visas are about trying to bring down local labour costs to help increase the profits of our great companies!

    • St JacquesMEMBER

      Agreed. It is our patriotic duty to donate part of our wages to the bottom line of the corporations. Otherwise our business elite would have to burden itself with the task of good management, innovation and quality. Mon Dieu!

      • You get angry at Lori but don’t want to recognize it’s population growth that’s killing us. No one truly wants to solve this. They’re all living in gaga land while politicians shaft us.

      • St JacquesMEMBER


        jeez, I’m getting a bit obsessed by this article today. Agree about our population Ponzi, and before I joined in the fun and games here, the people of MB and long time commenters here have discussed it at length. It is unsustainable and the boost it provides to the economy is suffering the good old diminishing returns at a rapidly advancing rate you’d expect, just as it did in Ireland and Spain prior to the crash of their housing/population ponzis. But we can’t discuss every issue at once.

    • Agree. We are in a race to the bottom for labour costs. Costs will either be reduced here or the work moved offshore. There is probably little any government can do about that.

      • Can do? How about stopping a flood of 500k people every 13 months. That would be a huge start. We are frogs beginning to boil. We’re fked thanks to an excruciatingly dumb electorate.

      • This was very much expected in a globalised world, only the “non-believers” thought it would be a paradise as usual.

      • St JacquesMEMBER


        so if the ship is leaking we might as well torpedo the whole side of the boat to save ourselves the trouble of running the pumps?

        Your logic has sunk into the abyss without leaving so much as a trace. In true libertarian fashion, who gives a flying duck. I’m alright Jack, right?

        There’s mutiny brewing on the SS Australia Captain Bligh.

      • There’s no mutiny. The peeps at the moment just want big Australia Labor in.

        Its been a right bastard to get your foot in the door for ages now, makes the plebs hang on to jobs for dear life.

        Herp derp.

    • Read in conjunction with the government adding extra occupational categories and/or failing to remove categories no longer needed, it seems like the government is trying to keep the population ponzi going a little longer, but business and/or immigrants aren’t coming to the party.

      In the mean time. some significant falls in immigration to wash through the system.

    • The market is working?

      What market? it’s not efficient, it’s manipulated!

      Check out salaries for “Information Media andTelecommunications”, in the ACT salaries
      are $93200, close to the industry average, however in other states it is $70k-$75k.

      Why? Because whole service contracts (involving 100’s of staff) have been moved over to exclusively use 457 visa, by Telstra and the Banks.

      Telstra and the Banks have been actively pressuring their supplies to exclusively use 457 visas, or don’t bother tendering.

      But for ACT, they don’t dare show such tactics in front of politicians, so the salaries are some $20k higher.

      Similarly, look at the salary difference in manufacturing for ACT as compared to the other states, just how much manufacturing do we do in the ACT so that the average salary is some $40k above other states?

      Explain that?

      • Media and manufacturing? Mmmmm must be all those spin doctors manufacturing the truth?

        Just how much was McTernan paid 😉

      • just how much manufacturing do we do in the ACT so that the average salary is some $40k above other states?

        Small sample size leads to sample bias?

      • Wow swizy, let’s use the ACT as the benchmark of best practice. Sorry all but you sound like you have been victims your whole life and no doubt you get passionate about very little other than sulking about being a victim. The rules around 457 are extremely strict. It’s only those Australian locals that are on a great wicket and want to protect their unfair wage advantage that are being penalised. It’s called protectionism look it up. Featured in the last world depression. You are whining, paranoid and above all very ignorant people. It’s very hard for Australian employers to hire a 457 person and the wage rates required to be paid are in most cases 457 is double what the award rate states. So the market forces do work as employers will always prefer a local worker that is able and willing over a 457 option. Why don’t you target the local construction trades people that get paid 200k per year for working 35 hours a week? Are we meant to accept that as best practice? I get that most of you would prefer we all suffer together and go down with the ship rather than the stronger half survive. It’s a pity you couldn’t spend as much time working on your skills and education so you were not so vulnerable.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        The rules around 457 are extremely strict. It’s only those Australian locals that are on a great wicket and want to protect their unfair wage advantage that are being penalised. It’s called protectionism look it up. Featured in the last world depression. You are whining, paranoid and above all very ignorant people. It’s very hard for Australian employers to hire a 457 person and the wage rates required to be paid are in most cases 457 is double what the award rate states. So the market forces do work as employers will always prefer a local worker that is able and willing over a 457 option.

        Then why are there over a million people who want to work more but can’t find anyone to employ them ?

      • @Thom Tank

        “The rules around 457 are extremely strict.”

        What do Infosys and Aricent do? If the 457 visa is so damn difficult, how is they taking these contracts in an industry that is shrinking.

        How is it they are winning contracts against existing companies in Australia?

        The 457 visa is part of the their business strategy, it’s their point of differentiation.

        If you had an education, you would look at yourself in the mirror, then start slapping your self continuously.

        If that report has sample bais, then it’s not my fault they don’t provide a standard error or p-value.

        But if that report has sample bais, then that would mean the whole damn thing is almost as inaccurate as your foolish judgement.

        Do us all a favour, resit your IELTS, and learn how to use paragraphs.

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      The total number of cooks and ‘cafe and restaurant managers’ (i.e. waiter) have increase though. I don’t have an issue with 457 visa being used for skilled professionals, but cooks and waiters should not be included in the scheme.

      The scariest thing is the number of University lecturers we’re importing. Either it means the university administrator is want cheap labour rather quality, or our graduates quality is so bad that the university who taught them refuses to hire them..

    • disco stuMEMBER

      Good one stooge – the drop in applications follows the tightening of the rules instituted by the previous Govt ie the reform to tighten 457 loopholes was working.

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      The market is working.

      A million+ under- and unemployed Australians disagree with you.

      • Drsmithy

        Ummmm … Not sure what underpins your knowledge of this but I assume it’s from something other than any type of real experience. There is a lot involved in retraining and transitioning local people from one redundant industry into an active industry. I know this because I have done it in depth. Let’s take automotive. Most don’t want to go through the process and commit unless you can hand deliver then everything on a silver platter. Wake up, those millions unemployed you are talking about, three quarters of them are not up to do what is required. In some cases yes but a lot of money and innovation required. Innovation comes from entrepreneurs not governments so try to avoid having such a simplistic narrow misinformed and pedestrian view of this issue. You might not ever want to face up to it but you need 457 to keep the lazy local workers to work hard and that means yes 100,000 odd 457 workers will compete for local jobs. Boo hoo harden up.

  3. “I mean, really, the 457 visa flies in the face of the Government’s primary duty of care for its people.”

    This is not a government that cares for people and ’employment’, lets stop fucking around.

    They care only about the $ in THEIR OWN POCKETS and the pockets of the business deities they worship.

    • Absolutely. Duty of care is not optional for employer or citizen these days. Many of us will have had our employers’ legal departments banging on to us about how important it is and that no one is beyond having their actions judged against those expected of a reasonable person.

      Our current political class for the most part, perhaps along with bankers, continue to serve their own interests while ignoring the clear evidence that shows their actions are negligent to the point of criminality.

      Who will call them to account when they captain of the sinking ship? No one, because we don’t even have a workable democracy. A fucking disgrace.

      • It’s time for all the people with a brain to devise how to get rid of both these parties.

        A consortium of like minded NEW independents to never preference either lab or lib. Social media frenzy to get the word out to vote for person xyz in each electorate.

        The mood is here. People are sick of it.

      • Ban all political parties. PERIOD.

        Only individuals allowed to participate in electoral process, based on their ideas and principles.

        Campaign funding paid ONLY by the state, limited to a particular amount that is the SAME for every candidate, so ideas count, not the size of the candidates wallet.

        Watch society change.

        And watch the plutocracy fight tooth and nail against it.

      • I agree Ortego. So maybe the best way is to social media bomb to only vote for this list of independents that have agreed to preference each other.

      • No preferencing. Voters should be encouraged to do their homework, investigate each candidate and their ideas, and vote accordingly.

        ‘Preferencing’ engenders democratic laziness.

      • I agree again Ortego but you’ve got to cleanse the Parliament of these self serving idiots to be able to make such changes. Get all new people in there with a focus on the good of Australia instead of themselves. Imagine.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Ban all political parties. PERIOD.

        Only individuals allowed to participate in electoral process, based on their ideas and principles.

        + a gazillion.

        Campaign funding paid ONLY by the state, limited to a particular amount that is the SAME for every candidate, so ideas count, not the size of the candidates wallet.

        I disagree. This limits new political entrants (or opens up a massive hole for rorting).

        A better solution, I think, is to allow political donations from natural persons only, up to a maximum attainable by pretty much anyone. I suggest the equivalent of 4 weeks minimum wage.

      • flyingfoxMEMBER


        Agree re donations. I was thinking about this the other day. Why not a kickstarter for new political parties. not only get people to vote for you but they can fund your campaign as well if they like what they hear.

      • Ok, I understand. But there needs to be a limit to the amount, and limited to donations by natural individuals only.

        A form of governance worthy of the name ‘democracy’ should be the ‘ultimate level playing field’, where ideas alone determine one’s success of failure.

        The electoral process, and with it the democratic process, has been usurped by money. Big money.

        Its now more overt than ever.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Ok, I understand. But there needs to be a limit to the amount, and limited to donations by natural individuals only.

        If you mean a limit per individual donation, then I agree – I suggest around 4 weeks worth of minimum wage (around $2,800) per year.

        If you mean a limit to how much can be donated to a candidate in total, I disagree.

        Low per-individual limits means candidates can only attract big money if they have ideas that lots of people agree with.

        I oscillate back and forth on whether or not donations should be anonymous (more accurately, if the information should be publicly available – obviously if donations are capped per person, they cannot be completely anonymous).

  4. I’m not sure there is actually anything in law or the constitution that says a government has to do the right thing by its population, or even define what is meant by the right thing. Further more i dont think there is any legal requirement on politicians to do the right thing, again the right thing not being defined.

    But no worries, the message from the top is starting to trickle down in a discipline i like to call “trickle down assholeism”

    In one potentially dangerous case, a 77-year-old with a sick husband who was struggling to pay $1500 said she was told to switch off the gas heater and “wear a coat and blanket to keep warm instead”.

    A jobless woman with a $3000 debt said her power company demanded her credit card details, and suggested she borrow from family and friends to avoid disconnection.

    Another low-income customer reported her partner was repeatedly harassed by phone at work for higher repayments.

  5. Well guys, there is plenty of money to be made up here in Caloundra at the moment.
    Need to have some sheet metal cut and folded for a project, the hourly rate to have the work carried out is $80 to

    The local lawn mower fixit man charges $92. hr and the local mechanic charges $120 plus.

    (I’m getting the big stuff cut and folded and buying a guillotine and folder to manage the rest myself. These local guys are in Fairyland. Isn’t this Flawse country up here ??) WW

    • Jack interest rates UP. These guys can clearly afford it if the market supports such rates for low skilled work.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      Wow! Last time I worked as a fabricator was on $24 an hour. That was good money. Maybe it’s time to get dirty again.

  6. Uranium GeoMEMBER

    This response from my professional body after writing to them.

    Dear ____

    Thank you for your letter of 7 July and for raising the important issues about unemployment, underemployment and skilled migration. I am responding on ______ behalf.

    In relation to your two questions, yes we have, and continue to have, ongoing and robust discussion with both federal and state governments about the current unemployment and underemployment situation. In particular, I draw your attention to the submission we provided to the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (one of the Australian Government bodies providing advice to the Immigration Department in relation to skilled migration) last November ( Although this submission related to the Skilled Occupation List (SOL), rather than the Consolidated Sponsor Occupation List (CSOL), we clearly made the point that new evidence about unemployment levels clearly pointed to the need to review/remove relevant occupations from the CSOL. Both our President (Geoff Sharrock) and CEO (Michael Catchpole) have since followed up with the Federal Government on a number of occasions in recent months to seek assurances that this is being effectively managed and reviewed. In February this year, the Federal Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection also commissioned an independent review of the 457 program. This is due to report shortly and we will advise members of the outcomes from this review when they are shared.

    Finally, thank you for referring to our Policy Priorities 2012-13. This document is currently under review and you are indeed correct in your assertions that a number of the positions expressed therein need to take account of a changed marketplace and employment landscape. Again, once this review is completed in the coming months we will be sharing our key priorities with all members. In the meantime, we will continue engaging with governments at all levels to reassert our position in relation to the short term oversupply of skills in certain areas. The results from the recent survey, as you have indicated, will provide further and more up to date evidence and insight into the current state of the market.

    Thank you once again for taking the time to raise your concerns.

    Kind regards

    • StomperMEMBER

      UG – Can you provide the content of your letter? – I’ll send the same to my professional body for their feedback too.

    • Uranium GeoMEMBER

      @ Stomper here it is please excuse the any errors as I was a flaming skull at the time of writting (to use bubbley’s expression) The website for the CSOL list is here:

      Unemployment/Underemployment in relation to Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457), Consolidated Sponsor Occupation List (CSOL)

      Dear Sir:

      I write to you as a member to express my concern in relation to the results of your professional employment and remuneration survey and to thank you for taking the time to collate these for all members and engaging the with the government and media on the issues the data outlines. We can all agree that the results of these surveys are concerning particularly when comparing the 2012-2013 figures on unemployment.

      It is equally of concern that upon investigation of the listed professions approved for the 457 visas by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection the following are present:

      • Environmental Scientists nec
      • Geologist
      • Geophysicist
      • Hydrogeologist
      • Metallurgist
      • Engineering Manager
      • Mining Engineer (Excluding Petroleum)
      • Petroleum Engineer
      • Metallurgical or Materials Technician
      • Mine Deputy
      • Driller

      I question the efficacy for maintaining at least some if not all of these professions on the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457). I am also concerned that the AusIMM will maintain its stance of a skills shortage policy and surprised that there is no mandate in relation to the skills shortage section in the 2012-2013 policy priorities.

      It can now be argued that the following impetuous is no longer in effect;
      ….”given the continuing low rate of unemployment and improved workforce participation. The importance of training and educating the future workforce is critical to maintain the sustained growth industry needs to deliver approved projects in the next few years.”
      If the AusIMM can mandate for exploration incentives than it should be revising it’s mandate to skills shortages and engaging with the government to make changes to the 457 visa listed professions. At current unemployment/underemployment levels within some of the occupations listed above in the mining sector it can be considered that employing 457 visa holders is not building capability and value within our economy.

      As a member I would like to know the following:
      1. Has the AusIMM broached the issue of unemployment/underemployment and questioned the ongoing requirement for the listed occupations above to continue given the current state of our economy with the federal government?
      2. Does the AusIMM consider the occupations listed above an issue regarding an ‘in-sourcing’ component of employment and it’s ability to drive down wages?

      Sincerely, ________

      • Guys. I was up in Mt Isa recently working on the commercial side of the mine management, but I was staggered to find the number of South African 457’s of the above vocations employed in supervisory roles.
        Where the Aussies went I haven’t a clue.WW

      • Uranium GeoMEMBER

        Yes W.W.

        I was out there the later half of last year and observed a similar composition in the workforce.

    • interested partyMEMBER

      No surprise with the info really, when you consider that the mines are owned by supra-national companies who could not care one iota for the local skill base. All they care for is life of mine, cash costs to extract, and return to shareholders. Your well being does not register on the radar at all. If they can lobby a government to rollover and submit, which is what is happening here, we have little hope of reversing the decision.

  7. Abbott the Job Destroyer:
    Over 50,000 less jobs and thousands more unemployed after 8 months of Abbott & Hockey.

    Abbott promised 1 million new jobs but has destroyed over 50,000 since he came to office.

    “7 November 2013
    Labour force figures show 11,636,600 people employed

    Labour force trend estimates for October 2013 show employment has decreased to 11,636,600. The unemployment rate has risen to 5.8 per cent, and 710,000 people are unemployed.”

    “10 July 2014
    Labour force figures show 11,582,400 people employed

    Labour force trend estimates for June 2014 show employment has increased to 11,582,400. The unemployment rate is steady at 5.9 per cent and 728,500 people are unemployed”


    • interested partyMEMBER

      “Abbott promised 1 million new jobs”

      He never stated what nationality those jobs would go to, did he?
      This may end up being one of his “kept promises”.

      Can’t blame the poor buggers from other countries chasing work though……many have been through the bloody mill. Don’t take that as my support for the policy though………..we sold ourselves out at the last election…unwittingly.