Australia has reported a significant drop in the number of temporary skilled overseas workers migrating to the country due to global economic slowdown and policy changes to ensure wages and working conditions in the nation were not undermined.
A summary report for 'The subclass 457 business (long stay) visa" for the June 2008-09 was released on Wednesday by Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans.
The report said primary applications lodged in 2008-09 were 11 per cent below as compared to previous term and primary applications granted also slipped by 13 per cent below last year.
Primary visa applications in June 2009 were 45 per cent lower than June 2008 and 40 per cent lower than in September 2008, before the global economic crisis hit.
Of the top 15 occupations for primary applications granted, only registered nurses rose up by 18 per cent.
There were 77,330 primary visa holders in Australia at 30 June 2009, compared to a peak of 83,130 at the end of February 2009.
While New South Wales recorded the biggest decline in use of temporary skilled overseas workers with a 24 per cent drop in primary applications, Western Australia reported drop by 9.5 per cent, Queensland by 7.5 per cent drop and Victoria by 7.1 per cent.
"The Subclass 457 visa program is a demand driven scheme that has responded to the slowing economy and reduced demand in the Australian labour market," Evans said.
The Rudd government's priority is to provide training and job opportunities for Australians but there will continue to be demand for skills in some sectors, such as healthcare, so there will still be a need for employers to access skilled overseas workers to fill gaps on a temporary basis."
Changes announced to the Subclass 457 visa program this year will ensure that temporary skilled overseas workers are not employed ahead of local workers or used to undermine Australian wages and conditions.
New worker protection laws that come into effect next month will also prevent exploitation of foreign workers and assist in improving workplace safety.
These measures include the implementation of formal skills assessments and introduction of a market-based minimum salary for temporary overseas workers from next month and a requirement that employers of overseas workers have demonstrated commitment to employing local labour, an official statement said.