Skilled migration in a deregulated market: Ensuring the integrity of the 457 visa in Australia

Stream: Panel 31 - Political Theory: Temporary Migration 
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm

Abstract

Developed and developing nations are in fierce global competition to attract skilled migrants to fill gaps in their domestic workforces and promote economic growth. In Australia, as elsewhere, this has led to pressure on governments to reduce regulation associated with the processing of temporary visa applications, in an effort to be more responsive to business demands for skilled labour. Since the Australian government introduced the Temporary Work (Skilled) (Subclass 457) Visa in 1996, the program has expanded significantly. As responsibility for key aspects of the visa application process is handed to migration agents and employers, there is a distinct danger of a hollowing out of government capacity in decision-making. The official emphasis on temporary migration suggests that deregulation of the 457 visa is relatively risk-free, as intake levels can be adjusted to market needs, without impacting on domestic employment. However, growing numbers of 457 visa holders are successfully converting to permanent residency, and now form a significant portion of the annual permanent migration intake, at the expense of non-residential applicants. Furthermore, external reviews have identified weaknesses in the labour market testing regime, raising questions about the legitimacy of the program and the appropriateness of further deregulation. This paper uses interviews with officers responsible for processing 457 visas in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to reveal the challenges faced in working with business and other stakeholders. These perspectives reveal important concerns about the limits of deregulation in a competitive global market, and the changing relationship between state and market.

Authors

Diana Perche (Presenter), Macquarie University
Diana Perche is a lecturer in public policy at Macquarie University. She has worked in a number of policy-related positions, including in the Australian Public Service, and has a keen interest in the interplay between policy research and policy practice. Her research interests are in public policy theory, the politics of evaluation, and the impact of intergovernmental relations on policy formulation and implementation. Her interest in Australian politics and public policy includes a particular focus on Indigenous affairs and health policy.

Isabel Little (Presenter), Macquarie University