Australian employers are hiring increasing numbers of overseas ICT workers on temporary visas, official figures show.
According to analysis [PDF] by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), the overall number of overseas workers on 457 visas increased by 12 percent this year, at a time of rising national unemployment.
A total of 110,280 temporary workers are in Australia on 457 category visas, CFMEU said, with at least half of them under the age of 30.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) workers feature prominently in the numbers, with 9100 visa holders employed in the information media and telecommunications industry in Australia.
That figure represents a slight, 1.2 percent increase over last year according to the CFMEU, which used Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIPB) statistics for its analysis.
The number of ICT workers with 457 visas in Australia is likely larger however.
CFMEU national research director Bob Kinnaird told iTnews that while the information media and telecommunications category is the main industry employing 457 visa holders in ICT occupations, there are others such such as Health Services that do so also, who are not captured in the statistic.
Kinnaird said that the total number of ICT workers with 457 visas had increased in the 12 months to September 2013. The number of applicants for new 457 visas in the ICT sector has, however, fallen in the four months to September compared to the same period last year.
Figures show that over 20 percent fewer applications for new 457 category visas were lodged in that period in the information media and telecommunications industry.
CFMEU acknowledged the DIBP figures may show a distorted picture of some 457 trends as there was a large spike in visa applications in June this year, some 76 percent more than the previous month.
That spike was due to applications for visas being brought forward to avoid higher fees and charges taking effect in July, and the employer Labour Market Testing obligation that is due to come into force in November this year.
CFMEU's national assistant secretary Dave Noonan said the figures show that urgent legislation is needed to oblige local employers to prove that no Australian workers are available before 457 visas are approved and issued to temporary overseas labour.
A new law was passed in June this year, amending the Migration Act that forces local companies to place ads for jobs, inviting Australian applicants first for situations vacant.
Fair Work inspectors were also given greater powers to investigate any potential breaches of the 457 visa program conditions.
However, the CFMEU criticised a lack of enforcement of the law, and estimates employers will be able to legally get 457 category visas for 70,000 temporary overseas workers in the next year without having to advertise the jobs in question for Australian applicants.