Re-examining the way we look at Foreign Workers in Australia

Professor Kate Hutchings

As Australians and future hopeful visa holders are watching carefully as the Federal government prepares to announce details on what will replace the abolished 457 visa program, Professor Kate Hutchings of the Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing says it comes at a time where we need to re-think about what international work looks like in the country.

“Traditionally when we thought of people working internationally they were often relocated for a long period of time, it might have been 3-5 years as a long term assignment,” Hutchings said.

“It was often people who were quite senior in their position and later in their career.”

According to Hutchings, that demographic and long term placement just does not apply as much anymore as a newer short-term breed of worker is looking towards Australia for work opportunities.

“The nature of international work has shifted and the profile of people that are working internationally has changed as well with a lot more people more junior in their careers looking for more international opportunities,” Hutching said.

“There’s a lot of people taking very short term assignment which may only last a few months, or they may be doing a fly-in fly-out type work between countries.”

This phenomenon is not new according to Professor Hutchings, as there is a whole body of research analysing global mobility and its changing natures.

“Perhaps where we’veseen the most changes is in developing economies in that high-skilled employees are much more likely to work outside of their home country and earlier in their careers, and in a younger age group that they may have done in a past generation,” Hutching said.

While the full details of the new visa program may not be released yet, the Federal government officials have said that some available jobs will be taken off the list and there will be a new emphasis regarding prior work experience and proficiency in English.

While there is a lot we do not know about the new visa scheme, Hutchings believes that it may not be a massive change the Australian foreign worker landscape.

“There’s a lot of different types of workers that were coming in on the 457 scheme, and I imagine these will continue to come,” Hutchings said.

“They are reducing the number of occupations, but some of the research suggests that some of the jobs they are removing didn’t have many people coming in performing that type of work anyway.”

“Today’s generation of employees will not only have different employers throughout their lifetime but perhaps different occupations as well. Working internationally even for a couple of years could just be an important part of that overall career profile.”