IT sector illustrates skilled migration abuses

By Leith van Onselen

The notion that ‘skilled’ temporary 457 visas are designed to overcome skills shortages is easily dis-proven by looking at Australia’s information technology (IT) sector, which is the biggest user of such visas.

Yesterday, published an illuminating article profiling a skilled Australian IT worker that has arrived home from working as a project manager at Amazon’s Seattle campus but cannot gain employment despite hundreds of job applications:

AT 25 years old, James was living a tech-head’s dream.

The university graduate had been snapped up by a global tech giant after a short stint in software development at a Melbourne company.

As a project manager at Amazon’s Seattle campus, he was in a high responsibility role and leading projects with massive scale.

The pressure was huge and the reward proportionally significant. The young techie was developing skills and gaining experience that would put him in good stead for the rest of his career. He was dealing with problems that involved 20 to 30 other teams, servicing a large portion of the company’s customer base, on projects that needed to be turned around super fast.

James loved the work and the culture, but he didn’t necessarily want to work his way up at one of the Silicon Valley giants where most IT graduates dream of making their mark. He wanted to come home, and bring his skills to Australia.

But, bizarrely, he says he’s found the tech job market down under far more difficult to crack…

Since leaving his job at Amazon, James has tried to get a job in Australia that he believes his experience from Amazon and previous roles have readied him for.
The jobs are out there and he’s been putting his hand up for them, but nothing’s biting.

Over the past six months, James says he has applied for 10 to 20 jobs in the tech industry each week. By his own count, the would-be IT worker is up to 250 applications, and still, nothing.

“It’s incredibly disappointing,” he told “One thing I’ve started asking recruiters a lot is ‘what have I done wrong?’ They tell me ‘you actually haven’t, your resume’s solid, your history is solid’.

“There’s nothing wrong. It’s just the mentality in this country is that you must have three years or you must have five years experience.
“They’re looking for a number on a piece of paper but not looking at skills and ability. Why do I need specific experience when I have the ability to learn on the run?”

The jobs James has been applying for are mainly project manager, business analyst and delivery lead roles.

In the few call backs he’s had, the 28-year-old says he’s been told he was rejected because he doesn’t have three years experience.

“The three-year mandate is an IT thing that’s happened for the past 20 to 30 years. It’s considered a good amount of time that you’ve learnt the job,” he said. “The problem in Australia has become that no one wants to train anyone to get that three years to take on a more senior job.

“The mentality is if we train them, they leave, and then it’s a waste of money. So, let’s never train them.”

It’s an interesting case study that runs counter to the whinging coming from the IT businesses that the Turnbull Government’s modest changes to temporary skilled visas would deprive them of workers capable of doing the job. The fact is there’s a large pool of local IT workers that could do the work, provided companies were willing to perform some training – like they used to do.

I know what you are thinking: one case study is hardly conclusive. This is true. But the data also strongly supports the view that the IT sector is way oversupplied with local workers and should not be getting flooded with foreigners.

The Australian Population Research Institute’s (APRI) recent report entitled “Immigration overflow: why it matters”, examined the widespread rorting of Australia’s 457 visa system, especially by Indian IT firms:

One of the findings from this report was “the high and increasing numbers of IT professionals being granted 457 visas”, which “constitute by far the largest occupation group within the 457 program”. You will also see from the below table that permanent migrants are heavily represented in the IT space:

ScreenHunter_16433 Dec. 02 07.28

The APRI showed that Indian IT service companies have been successful in winning a major chunk of Australia’s IT consulting work on the basis of these 457 visa holders, partly because they are paying them much lower salaries than the market rate for IT professionals in Australia:

As Table 2 shows, some 76 per cent of the 7,542 457 visas issued in the three IT occupations listed were to Indian nationals. The great majority of these were sponsored by Indian IT service companies as intra-company transferees…

ScreenHunter_16434 Dec. 02 07.34

Once in Australia their staff are being paid at much lower rates than experienced resident IT professionals and in some cases even new local graduates.

Even more disturbing is the relatively high proportion of these Indian IT professionals (28 per cent) whose 457 visas were approved at the extremely low base salary of $53,900 or less. This is despite the fact that only eight per cent of the 457 visas granted to Indians in the two ICT occupations in 2014-15 were aged less than 25.

The median starting salary for local ICT graduates under the age of 25 is around $54,000. Coincidentally, the 457 minimum salary ‘floor’ is set at $53,900…

The report also showed how the biggest sources of migrants (both temporary and permanent) – IT, accounting and engineering professionals – are also the areas with the biggest surplus of workers, thus debunking the view that foreign workers are required to overcome skills shortages:

ScreenHunter_16436 Dec. 02 07.49

The Department of Employment’s latest report on IT Professionals also revealed that 457 visas have grown much faster than the growth in IT jobs, despite a large pool of applicants available per advertised job and large numbers of IT graduates being unable to gain full-time employment:

A key feature of the IT labour market is the large number of candidates competing for available vacancies. There were, on average, around 29 applicants per surveyed vacancy and most employers were able to choose between multiple suitable applicants (an average of 3.1 per surveyed vacancy)…

Notably, a number of employers recruiting for graduate or junior level vacancies had applicants who they considered to be overqualified for the advertised position….

While 457 visa grant numbers for IT professionals are variable over time, grants have been generally trending upwards since 2005-06 (when the data series began).

The number of IT professional 457 visa holders is increasing at a faster rate than the number of employed IT professionals. In 2009-10, the number of 457 visa holders equated to 3.0 per cent of employed IT professionals, but by 2014-15 it had risen to 4.3 per cent…

A range of data suggests that there is some spare capacity in the graduate labour market at present. Notably, graduate outcomes for students studying in the field of Computer Science (which includes the vast majority of students studying in the Information Technology field of education) have been declining for four consecutive years…

In 2015, 67 per cent of computer science graduates were in full-time employment four months after graduation, below the average of 69 per cent for all graduates. Graduate outcomes are now 17 percentage points below the level recorded in 2008 (84 per cent).

It should be clear that Australia’s IT sector has been one of the most heavily abused by Australia’s ‘skilled’ migration system, given the large number of temporary and permanent foreign workers employed in this sector as well as the huge oversupply of local workers willing to do the job. To IT you can add accounting and engineering – other heavy users of skilled temporary and permanent migrants.

The fact is, Australia’s skilled migration system is no longer about alleviating skills shortages but rather funneling foreign students into Australian universities (using the carrot of permanent residency), underpinning local demand and aggregate economic activity (by growing the domestic market via population growth), and holding wages down (to the benefit of corporations and the detriment of workers).

The system has become a farce that is working against the interests of incumbent residents – by clogging our cities, making housing less affordable, and undermining wages and working conditions – and needs a fundamental overhaul.

[email protected]

Unconventional Economist


  1. meh!…The customer service side of IT is dead worldwide, nobody can compete with the Indian firms on costs / bod, heck even the Chinese are importing Infosys IT technicians..
    It is time for Australia’s IT professionals to realize that they bet on the wrong horse and move away from the customer service side and maybe back to hard core product coding, where they possibly have some advantage.
    Sorry but that’s what happens in a global economy, either the service technicians come here from India or the majority of the jobs get done with Remote Login for a Bangalore based IT technician.
    It’s the Call Center effect all over again. Aussie IT professionals seem to think themselves immune from this change even though it’s happening and is as obvious as the nose on your face,
    It’s a simple choice really
    a) Get the average costs per service down so that there’s no advantage in employing Indian IT’ers (means low wages, like really low wages)
    b) see most Australian IT jobs follow our Call center jobs off-shore.

    • That is true for many of the IT Services companies, but i find even the local smaller companies and especially the IT recruiters who service them are bringing in 457 because it is easier and cheaper.

      • What your missing is that for the recruiters its a volume game.
        They want X bods starting on Day Y and guaranteed available for 1 or 2 years at a cost of $Z.
        Local IT graduates might take a low paying gig for 6 months but they’ll be gone as soon as they find something better heck many will decide that Taxi driving is a better option and start milking the Sicky system and earn extra on the side. I’m not concerned with the morality of either position just the reality and in the real world Indian IT’ers are a safer bet, you can buy them by the gross, get them delivered at a time convenient to you and be somewhat sure they’ll stay for the full term of the contract, all this at a known fixed cost. ….For a recruiter it’s like living on easy street.

        • “ can buy them by the gross, get them delivered at a time convenient to you and be somewhat sure they’ll stay for the full term of the contract, all this at a known fixed cost”.

          Remove the carrot of permanent residency and I bet far less Indian IT workers would come to Australia.

          “For a recruiter it’s like living on easy street.”

          Sure. It’s geat for migration agents too. So what? It sucks for the ordinary Australian who gets undercut on wages and must put up with more pressures on housing and infrastructure.

      • Remove the carrot of permanent residency and I bet far less Indian IT workers would come to Australia.
        I’ve got no objections to this but I doubt it’ll be enough to stem the tide. As I said Indian IT’er are common in China where they have no Permanent Residency hopes and can’t even speak the local language (don’t you think these Indian’s would rather be in Australia with or without PR?)

        It sucks for the ordinary Australian
        I suspect a lot more Australian’s will have learn the meaning of being Globally competitive before we can properly support skilled Australian’s with the higher wages they logically diverse, but in the mean time it’s those Skilled workers that get to bend over and take one for the nation.

      • @UE From my experience there’s nothing a Bogan Aussie enjoys more than seeing their betters bought down to their level or lower. Just the thought of watching a white Aussie IT graduate get ass F’ed by an unskilled Indian gets most Bogan Aussies juices flowing. Lets face it it’s a sport and while it doesn’t impact them, it doesn’t impact them.
        In the end there will be nowhere to hide and like it or not change will come to Australia, it’s called Globalization it’s real and it’s coming to a job near you.

      • @smart
        “Australian’s will have learn the meaning of being Globally competitive before we can properly support skilled Australian’s with the higher wages they logically diverse”
        You forget Australia was the outsource destination of choice when Aussie dollar was at $0.5 USD. Our skills were great, but the mining boom killed that industry.

      • @Kevin yeah a $AUD at $0.50USD would be a start but it wouldn’t be a cure, unfortunately Indian colleges discovered that training IT graduates is a little like training Art’s degrees here, you can pack them in by the thousands and just turn the handle, 4 years later you have another million freshly minted IT graduates. the best part of it is that those Indians that stay there make money training those that leave. I suspect you have no idea of the sheer magnitude of the Indian IT graduate manufacturing system.
        As I said to start, Aussies can still compete but just not in the generic IT services end of the game. Ask an Indian IT “engineer” for details about something like Communications Protocol’s and exceptions and you’ll see just how shallow their training is. Ask them about complex semaphore task signaling methods in a parallel processing setup and they’ll be completely clueless and worse than useless if they ever tried to code such a system.
        There’s a place for Aussie IT professionals it’s just not at the routine service end of the business, as for the 50cAUD yeah that helps mainly by making other Aussie Bogans comparatively poorer.

      • @Smart
        You just described why Indian outsourcing is utterly useless. They can’t do any real development work, all they can do is cut code. Their skills now is exactly the same as it were in 2006. They only difference is they now have even more headcount and market share for low level IT job.

        When Aussie dollar was at 0.5 USD, all the work that was outsourced here were equivalent to the real development work done in the USA, and we produced products that at least matched the quality of US engineers for half the price, try beating that. (information supplied by an software engineer working for a US IT systems company) in Australia.

      • @Kevin, I’m not the enemy, I’m just a realist.
        Yeah Indian IT graduates are useless in any cutting edge development job, I agree 100% they’re useless, well I’d better make that 99% before there are exceptions.
        As for the Aussie Software product development industry, it got sacrificed to make room for Mining, There’s absolutely no difference between Aussie Automotive Engineers designing cutting edge cars in 2000 era and Aussie IT professionals coding cutting edge products BOTH groups were very capable and provided Efficient leading edge product development, but along came Mining and the future of both groups was thrown under the bus. Mine development needed traction, it’s the future you know!
        From a business perspective no business can survive the seesawing labor cost changes that were forced onto Aussie IT, The dollar was Trading at 50c in 2000 and almost $1:20 less than 10 years later. Something had to give.
        In a perfect world an informed realistic government would have stepped into the breach and provided industry support for the 5 or so years that Mining was running red hot. Instead we had a government so engrossed with their own success story that they couldn’t even predict the blindingly obvious end to new Mine development (they’re called Cyclical s for a reason)
        The past however changes nothing, except in the sense that those talented individuals who would put their heart and soul into building great Aussie IT businesses now know better than to even start down that road. They know for a fact that they’ll get sacrificed at the first opportunity, at the the first glance of a quick buck our Politicians will take steps to ruin 10+ years of hard yakka for the Software industry. Better still they’ll have the audacity to tell us, to our faces, that the Ass F’ing we’re getting will be ultimately good for us.
        Yeah I’m not completely untouched by this whole shift but in the end I’m always a realist and I’m always focused on the future.

    • What is in fact happening is that the off-shore IT support centres have now moved onshore.
      The Indian IT companies have as stated in the article set up shop locally and are now importing Indians on 457 visas to win the work from businesses that had not been prepared to outsource to an overseas located provider.
      I was working at a client site(medium sized mining contractor) as a consultant last year when in the 2nd week the local IT staff were made redundant. In the door walked the outsourced provider’s staff. All Indians on 457 visas and took the seats of the local staff just made redundant.
      Kind of a bit sickening, but that is how your 457 visa system works for local IT Professionals these days. Our days are numbered.
      Having set up local subsidiaries the Indian companies are now winning work from private and government clients (state at least – not sure about federal).
      Funny thing is that one of the Indians asked me for a reference for local IT vacancies after spending about a week in the same office as me. That was when I explained the lay of the land to her. Firstly I would not provide a reference as I had no idea about her abilities and secondly outlined the problem that if she did find a job locally that it would ultimately be threatened by someone on a 457 visa and that because of that that there were very limited opportunities for local IT professionals.
      As far as I’m concerned there should be a quota on 457 visas(not more than a quarter of the currently issued number) with a monthly or quarterly auction to business interested in importing low paid staff. That means businesses can find the staff they want, but it comes at a cost if they don’t want to train locals or employ locals.

  2. The fact that wages are shrinking is proof.

    The fact that there are 1 million unemployed is proof.

    I have personal anecdotes that AUS is not a meritocracy.

    News Ltd? Cheering on the 457 visa rort in one article and exposing the truth about it in another. No wonder voters go with gut Instinct.

  3. Engineering is probably worse and yet.. Engineers Australia is pushing it hard (more membership?). Meanwhile Department of Employment and Professionals Australia have a different view.

    • Random PunterMEMBER

      Why any thinking person would pay money to be a member of Engineers Australia is entirely beyond me. Not only does the organisation offer almost nothing of practical value, it actively works against the interest of its members as it furiously assesses 457 visa claims to the tune of millions of dollars of revenue each year.

      It’s appalling.

  4. There’s another reason for young James’s problems in the job search and that is the tacit refusal to employ someone with foreign experience, which looks good, the locals don’t like and use bogus excuses: 1 – don’t know the local market ( as if it’s hard – its so small; 2 – not well connected to the industry ( smaller than UK, Germany, or US and had successful careers there.) These reasons have been offered to many people and an Aussie returning after 18 years abroad said she had not realised how closed Australian business is, qualifications are not enough, being known and vetted from school is necessary. That is not like larger and more sophisticated markets.

    • Ah, so that is still going on! (discrimination against Aussies who have experience in Tel Aviv or San Francisco)

      But they give jobs to 457 visa staff from the 3rd world!

      So are 3rd world degrees better than Scandinavian and British degrees?

      And hired Mr Bhavesh Shah (who failed the English test 6 times) instead of an Aussie!

      Aussie bosses make no sense and are against meritocracy. What a great nation to live in.

      • Hey hey… take it easy with that meritocracy concept, bud. I don’t think in reality it means what you think it means.

      • My last boss would hire 40 year olds for entry level positions and then complain about his 20yo son not having a full time job. He wasn’t impressed when I pointed out the cause and effect of his action and told me I didn’t understand. I think a big part of the puzzle is that a lot of bosses in Australia are in their 50’s and paranoid as hell about losing their job so they employ people they can control eg the threat of taking the visa away. Plus Aussie kids like to speak up and offer opinion where as the 457’s never say boo.

    • Dont forget the discrimination where the Boss of the IT sector really doesn’t want to hire anyone who could possibly be better skilled than him/her. It’s a much better bet to hire the Aussie Sheeple, they follow orders and don’t ever embrace you with F’in obvious improvements/solutions, you know exactly what you’re getting. You also know that if they had an ounce of talent or self respect they wouldn’t be interested in your job anyway.
      The OS trained experienced candidate is a proverbial loose cannon, anything could happen if you employed them.

    • Yep – every year spent overseas is subtracted from Australian experience. This James would have looked like a year 12 student once his experience was adjusted down to account for his time in SF.

      • Haha.. no truer words have been spoken. I got a demotion after a break of 1.5 years (work experience in the US). But it’s a I don’t care.

        You need only one skill in Australian IT to get ahead : Contacts.

    • Absolutely the case. This fixation on “local experience” has to be seen to be believed. Every year spent in a decent overseas market should count for 1.5-2x Aussie experience as the quality is so much higher. Instead the opposite happens. And yet almost every IT recruiter is an Expat, usually from London. The irony.

  5. ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

    “There were, on average, around 29 applicants per surveyed vacancy and most employers were able to choose between multiple suitable applicants”

    One of my Indian Customers who came here pre Y2K as an IT guy, is now in his early 50s and hasn’t been able to land a decent IT gig for a decade.
    He is livid about these 457 visa scams by Indian IT firms and expresses dismay at what the Australian government is allowing.
    He told me he was thinking of voting for Pauline handson!!!!! (That utterance sounded funny coming from someone with such a thick indian accent).

    Hes doing alright though with a missus with a successful vetenary business and a home on 4 acres in Sydneys Nth West,…with his 2 kids both at Syd Uni and UNSW,.. his lifestyle isnt really negatively affected,…just his pride.

    But young people coming up through the ranks are being bent over and fucked by our immigration policies with overall numbers being clearly way to high.
    Be aware that it not just Whiteys making this call.
    I have heaps of Chinese, Sir Lankan, Korean, Arab etc etc Friends and Customers, and always ask what they think of the tremendous growth in house prices and road and school congestion etc etc,…and they nearly all express a belief that the numbers of new arivals are too high,…”they” (new arivals) can smell the rot in the political process as much as anybody.

    How long the 2 major parties can keep this “elephant in the room” of the agenda will be interesting to see.

    Labors got a good chance to defete the libs federally and in NSW, but I can see them (Us, as im one of them) getting wedged on this issue and blowing it,…if so, then we deserve it.

    • Yep. That immigrant should vote for Pauline for the sake of his kids.

      And some immigrants should appear in ONP ads – that would make Sarah Hanson-Young go into cardiac arrest!

      Immigrants who voted for Brexit:

  6. You have to be a complete dill to believe the 457 and other work visas was for anything but undermining Australian workers’ bargaining position.. It is an example of the purist treason against the people of this nation. If this highly experienced fellow can’t get a decent job here after hundreds of applications, what are the chances of inexperienced locals getting a chance ? Is it any wonder that locals have turned away from training for these 457 infected careers en masse ?

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      Meanwhile Wendy Halmer on ABC 702 Sydney, is talking up another one of the latest anti bullying campaigns.

      Yes the Treason runs deep,…So deep that many of the Traitors dont even know how treasonous they are.

      At least all those young wage slave “Losers” of Globalisation, who will never own a home or have decent paying job can take comfort in the knowledge that they will be protected from ever being called a Poofta, or a Wog, or a Chink, or an Abo or lesso,…or even *gulp*,.. a “White Capitin Cook Cunt!” (ive been called this).
      I suppose we should be all thankfull for small mercies.

  7. reusachtigeMEMBER

    This is the punishment IT nerds get for being so meek and mild years ago when they should have banded together and violently opposed their jobs going to better looking curries and shit. IT geeks are wanna be billionaires and they too would rort the system if they got half a chance. The best IT people are those who have moved out of IT into property investment. They always seem to be the better looking ones although you still get that sense from them that being an IT weirdo is in their blood but they do suppress it well.

  8. Baruch Spinoza

    Worked developing some of the biggest projects in Europe / UK – no work in Australia in one of the most sought after fields.

    Was speaking to someone who spent some time outside private sector contracting to government in order to help them manage their relationship with Accenture, Deloittes etc – had a running battle with these companies as they tried to leverage more and more shit into the contracts.

    This is no shit. Held a meeting regarding a “font”, they said they needed to bring in a junior to correct its appearance on mobiles – $4000.00 / day for a junior graphic designer. On a 4 week stint.

    My friend was beyond enraged and went straight to the head of the department. He was over ruled and the junior ($25 / hour at best) was employed to fix the font problem on the above rates. My friend went down stairs and fixed the problem in under 20 minutes, deployed it and went back into the department heads office and showed him. He shrugged his shoulders. He was then told that 5 more junior graphic designers had been agreed upon to do more tweaks on an ongoing basis.

    He quit then and there.

    This is why they have been gouging the 457 visa scheme. Its disgusting beyond all imagination.

    I have built face recognition, AI, gaming all kinds of stuff for some of the biggest clients for the biggest agencies – and NOTHING in Australia – its totally absurd, beyond ridiculous.

    I have close family members in similar positions and the only work they could get was in defence contracts as they keep these for Australians.

    There is a REASON that everything the big American firms (IBM, DELOITTES, ACCENTURE etc) touch fails and turns to shit. They are entirely staffed by totally incompetent 457 visa holders who are being rented out at $4000.00 / day to the public service who simply has no idea what is going on.

    Yes – I am angry about it.

    • True, and not true. Deloitte are the biggest player in my space and they have a pretty diverse workforce including lots of Aussies. Indeed the hierarchy of many of these places is mostly Aussie, which brings a different problem (old school networks, nepotism, milking behaviour due to sense of entitlement etc). IBM very much this model in Melbourne especially.

      There are some shocking situations across Aussie businesses where these companies are creaming outsize profits, for sure. Mostly due to poor management inside of those businesses. Decent leadership wouldn’t stand for that nonsense.

    • Lots of it is pretty much internal money laundering and tax evasion… Great comment

  9. When I came to Aus in 2010, there were certainly shortages of good people in many areas of IT. This was clear from the salaries being offered and the tendency of good people to churn pretty quickly. Now, that situation has slowly reversed, though in some areas that I’m familiar with there’s still not that many good people and plenty of opportunities. In some areas there’s significantly more people than jobs, and as companies move away from large-scale on-prem applications, this will affect more areas.

    But IT is a very broad field with many specialisations and some of these will undoubtedly not have enough available local talent. This is because adoption of new technologies by Aussie firms tends to lag adoption in the US and UK particularly. But obviously if you don’t have incentive to develop local talent you will always be importing and that has to be limited somehow.

    But this has always been the way of IT everywhere. New techs appear and there is a huge demand for talent until the workforce catches up, and by then adoption has slowed, the hype has overblown and the shortage disappears. Data Science, Big Data and Analytics is in this stage right now. Everyone is playing in this space and anyone who can call themselves a Data Scientist is getting 200k+/-. There will be loads of people training up to try to get into this space, by which time the hype bubble will have burst and we’ll be onto something else.

    • “Data Science, Big Data and Analytics”
      That area is full of people who just calls themselves data scientists. Watching a few videos about Hadoop, machine learning and R/Python does not make you a data scientist. You need extensive training in statistics to really understand what you are doing, and math is never an easy subject. Also the first two stages of data science is pretty much data warehousing, so you can’t just find a statistician and expect them to produce something that’s runs and is maintainable, because they lack the IT discipline.

    • anyone who can call themselves a Data Scientist is getting 200k+/-.

      They really aren’t – data science jobs at that level are rare and almost always involve many years of experience and managing a team.
      The large Data Science Melbourne meetup group host a jobs board – I’m pretty confident that in three years of existence, none of the jobs advertised there has been $200k+

      My observation is that it is already hard to get a foot in the door without experience, so the numbers aren’t of experienced people aren’t necessarily growing as fast as the views on Andrew Ng’s videos.

      • Exactly, I don’t see many data science jobs pay that much more than data warehouse consultants, and it requires specialized math knowledge which is somewhat difficult to obtain. But if you are just talking about someone doing Hadoop, then that knowledge is easier to obtain.

      • I would have said that Hadoop or other NoSQL knowledge/ skills in isolation are adjacent to data science, not actually data science. In particular, although there is considerable hype around Big Data, in my experience, only a tiny fraction of Data Scientists have anything to do with Big Data on any platform. Deep Learning, though still not all that common, would be more common.

      • That’s why I put +/-. These roles are in that range, say 170+. I know several making that. And the jobs at the next level up, leading those teams, are in the 250K+ bracket. I know that for sure as have had several recent discussions around such roles.

        Some of the people I know are genuine though, with advanced degrees in Maths, Stats. Some others are not as genuine, but given the demand in the marketplace many are making the grade (one such where I am right now).

        Lot of Data Scientists have skills in software development across all the Big Data / Science stacks e.g. Spark, R, Python, Scala etc etc. That’s pretty much a prerequisite to do the job. The data usually doesn’t come on a plate.

      • There’s plenty that can be done with small data – outside applications that actually require large data sets, the hassle of curating the large data sets isn’t worth the cost. I stand by my assertion that Big Data is not part of the definition of Data Scientist or a pre-requisite, as opposed to a skill belonging to a particular subset.
        You might be correct in your assertion that you know several people in the 170+ who are lucky enough to get that money without the annoyance of managing people, but it sounds like there’s significant sampling bias/ confounding factors involved. It also sort of sounds like your definition of data scientist is skewed towards the unicorn end of the spectrum, so I guess you would have to pay that sort of money – though if the impression you give is that you’ll give the job to a non-unicorn and still pay the unicorn salary if no actual unicorns show up is correct, that sounds sort of unnecessary.

      • Robert, I am NOT a Big Data / Data Science Kool Aid drinker, exactly the opposite! That’s why I was saying that it’s a fad and people training up now will likely be disappointed. In reality, the data space has NOT really changed outside of certain verticals and the true digital space (eg FANG like companies). Its just marketing and hype.

        That said, there are real practioners with real skill doing important things in this space. As there was 10 years ago, they were just called Statisticians or “data analysts” of various stripes. These are the people I know and many on good bucks. Companies seem prepared to pay big wages for these now as they genuinely can’t find enough quality. Probably because in most cases they want a quality all-rounder as well that can drive discussions with business stakeholders etc. And the leaders of these teams are also higher-profile and same logic applies.

      • Part of what I am trying to say is that in the original two posts you seemed to be describing ‘Big Data Engineers’ more than describing ‘Data Scientist/Analyst/ Statistician’ and that the two groups don’t have much overlap in personnel, and less in skills. Certainly I would never let a DWH Consultant analyse a single row of data, and from time to time expend significant effort preventing that from occurring. However, in the last post you seemed to have stepped back from that idea.

        At the same time, I remain unconvinced that people with statistics degrees, of which I am one, and which I hire, are commonly receiving 170k+ salaries without additional factors being involved, which probably includes specific and additional hard to find skills. It is common for statisticians to be expert in a topic that they have spent significant time analysing (Fisher, Gosset, Tukey and more recently Andrew Gelman all being excellent examples of this phenomenon) so it’s easy to imagine statisticians having their worth increased because of the value of their knowledge of the field they analyse over and above their worth as analysts.
        Having said that, I do agree that demand for people with formal statistical training with a good track record in a commercial environment outstrips supply, though it isn’t easy to get a first job. I’d also suggest that there’s about 100 CS/IT graduates for ever person completing an undergrad statistics program in Victoria, so people trained in the latter area will continue to be fairly thin on the ground irrespective of fluctuations in demand.

    • I’m not sold on the supposed issues of IT people and/or Indians on 457 visas, worked alongside IT professionals for many years and include some as friends.

      Like the sub-optimal graphs and data in the article, an employer advertises and finds about 5 suitable apps out of 40 for interview, so what? It simply reflects a selection and interview process?

      This ignores the qualitative side of any IT person, both technical and soft skills, making each individual applicant unique. In my own personal experience, those who complain most about 457s and Indians possess only borderline competence, especially on soft skills.

      Would it not be useful for MB to actual invest some modest time asking employers a few questions, both Australian and global contractors? Otherwise this looks like another hatchet job on foreigners or immigrants…..

      May not be valid or reliable statistic, but about as good the statistical data analysis on display in the article 🙂

    • Dave,
      Interesting you bring up that elusive +/- 200K figure. I am no where near that number and IMHO one may need to be managing an entire department in order to get to that elusive number or may be I am hopelessly below average.

      Or may be I can apply at your firm/organisation?

      I am: PhD in ML, 10+ years work exp in ML/DS (call it whatever), with multiple domain exp+knowledge, currently in banking & fin services with the said “hyped-up-title”.

  10. The Long Run

    Shit happens. Eventually the whole lot will fall over and someone will get their head kicked in. Until then it will continue on as before.

    • If that doesn’t happen, the price of Indian outsourced IT labour will rise until the wealthiest companies in the US can’t afford it any more. There’s at least a chance that we’ll be priced out before they get there.

  11. A single anecdote, about one guy who can’t get a job in Australia, is hardly evidence of anything, and certainly not “illuminating”.

    I read MB every day. It’s excellent. But this post isn’t. Quoting a News Ltd article interviewing one guy who hasn’t provided a real name I would have thought is below the minimum level of data veracity required to lead with the statement, “The notion that ‘skilled’ temporary 457 visas are designed to overcome skills shortages is easily dis-proven by looking at Australia’s information technology (IT) sector, which is the biggest user of such visas.”

    I am an executive at a tech company based in Melbourne. We simply cannot find enough high quality candidates to fill technical positions. I don’t require years of experience, and I would prefer to employ local people. But we simply don’t get the applicants.

    We have two staff members on 457s. They are exceptional. Were we not to be able to sponsor them, they would likely be working in the US, Canada or the UK. All other things being equal, this would make our company less competitive on a global scale (from which we earn revenue, with local corporate/PAYG/payroll tax being the benefit to the Australian economy).

    I’m not overly political, and I do understand the need to limit rorting the system. But perhaps the ICT sector uses 457s so frequently because local talent in this industry is so hard to find, not because we have some sort of anti-local bias.

    PS. If you’ve a PHP (Symfony stack) developer, please apply via our careers page:

    (…. see?)

    • I agree that this was a very poor example to go with. I don’t think any IT workers are taking him seriously. Expects to “Learn on the run” as a Project Manager? If he needs to “learn” how will he project manage? As he learns his estimates would change. That is big money when you’re talking about IT projects.

      Hats off to you Andrew. In this day and age of doxing and whatnot, listing the company you work for on a site which preaches against immigration is….courageous.

      Even without any Visa, you can get good code out of China for $5 an hour. You can get crap code out of Australia for $50 an hour. Stop all 457s tomorrow and it wont change the facts. If food, rent, commute and other costs are lower, so is the hourly charge.

      The weaker our currency though, the harder those sites are to use. Its not all doom and gloom though. IT sits at the heart of pretty much any organisation now. Carelessly relying on 3rd parties for maintenance, development or security runs the risk that the organisation either becomes unable to escape the 3rd party, or the 3rd party becomes a vulnerability in the wider organisation. The more IT literate society, judges and lawyers get, the harder it will be for anyone in a management role to handwave off the issues of conducting business utilising labour outside of local jurisdictions.

    • Andrew,

      My brother is a project manager or similar at the Melbourne branch of a somewhat large US games developer (they bought out the Aussie guy who bought out my brother’s startup), and has said what you just said a number of times, most recently in a grumble against Turnbull’s fiddling. Anyway, it’s nice to see what he’s always said being corroborated.

    • Andrew,
      I concur with your observation regarding the “poor example”.

      “James” is 25 years old and was already managing “major projects” in Amazon, Seattle. He left the job in order to find a job in Australia!! No one worth their salt leaves a job hoping to find another especially while moving countries (except in low-skilled, crowded space), either they find one before they move to and they have been fired. “Will learn on the job” is a big giveaway for someone trying to break into a “delivery lead”!!!

    • I completely disagree with you Andrew.

      For us, the incumbant telecommunications carrier blatantly told us to get more 457’s and move more work offshore, and we subsequently lost a contract to an Indian firm and had to lay off staff, I can assure you that at the big end of town, it’s not just about saving money in wages, it’s about creating a perception of being ruthless in using these visa’s to profit shareholders.

      You are talking about 2 skilled visa’s, I’m talking about 30 skilled visa’s.

      Speaking from a point if economics, all the 457 visa is doing is artificially reducing the wage gap between skilled and unskilled workers, so that school leavers go seek work in unskilled labour rather than go study computer science.

      The “skills shortage” you are a experience is a consequence of this.

      Two decades ago, top school leavers went to study computer science and elec. engineering courses, but not anymore. ATAR for these courses has dropped appallingly.