SUBCLASS 400 VISAS: BOON OR BANE?
Immigration is a tricky subject. How many people should enter the country every year? How many jobs are there to be filled? How many are too many? The recently unveiled subclass 400 visas are beginning to allow unskilled overseas workers to take up jobs in Australia. In this piece, we ask if this is wise.
Immigration seems to be on the discussion table for just about every country’s foreign policy. The United States is now surging full steam ahead toward the Presidential Elections in November, and the big topic on everyone’s lips is immigration. Similarly, in Australia too, the subclass 400 visas have raised a few doubts on whether jobs could be lost to other countries if the rules are interpreted creatively enough.
Unskilled labour outsourced
There have been reports recently of Australian businesses giving visas to Chinese workers and employing them on construction projects in the areas of welding and other related tasks, for which there is a lot of local Australian skill available. The visa was introduced with the idea that specialised work could be outsourced, but if unskilled labour such as welding is outsourced, it could result in more Australians out of a job because of incoming immigrants.
Underpaying of immigrant workers
The other worrying trend is that these Chinese workers were grossly underpaid for their work by Australian standards. While an Australian would have been paid an hourly rate of $42 for the job that was done, the Chinese were paid $75 a day, which is almost four times cheaper. The pay was deposited directly into their Chinese bank accounts, without any Australian pay slips being generated. Since it’s impossible to track down these wages, it could start a slow leak that can turn into a bigger outflow.
Flouting of safety laws
The third, probably most important, issue is that the workers who were employed for this job were found to be repeatedly flouting Australian safety laws because they did not know any of them. One witness referred to a thin nylon piece acting as a harness. Yet, all these workers had safety certificates given to them by their Australian employer, and they were made to return to China immediately after being found not complying with Australian workplace safety law.
The problem with attestations
In giving out a subclass 400 visa to an overseas worker, all an employer has to do is attest that the skill that is required is no available in Australia. Since this is a subjective statement and since there is no investigative body looking into these attestations, currently employers can bring in masses of unskilled labourers into the country, get their work done, and have them sent back to their homes after the work is done.
Since Australia is a small country that depends on labour and migration, this can create a significant headache to the economy in time to come. The government needs to guarantee that there are no Australian jobs lost due to any of its visa programmes, especially the notorious subclass 400 visas.