Australian 457 visa holders filling country's digital skills gaps

Australia's migrant digital workforce has a ten times higher percentage of 457 visa holders, than the national average. The findings, which come from an AIMIA salary survey, show that 10% of Australia's digital industry workforce hold a migrant visa.

AIMIA, which is the Digital Industry Association of Australia and represents a range of digital organisations, found the migrant workforce across the digital sector to be 'well above the 1% average across other industries.'

Australian visas needed to help with STEM skills shortages

Commentators say that the study, which surveyed 507 digital workers, further confirms the difficulties Australia has in producing enough people with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) skills.

Jodie Sangster, AIMIA chief executive, said: "It's evident that there is a significant skills gap within many areas of the digital, media and marketing landscape and the high proportion of 457 visa holders within the digital industry reflects the demand for 'ready-made' skilled executives."

Aside from providing confirmation that 457 visa holders are filling skills gaps, the study further revealed that the skills shortage had resulted in increased mobility among digital workers. According to the survey results, 87 per cent of professionals in Melbourne, and 83 per cent in Sydney, would consider changing employer compared to 65 per cent nationwide.

The skills gap has also played its part in helping digital workers to earn a good average salary - AUS$101,000 for men and AUS$85,000 for women. According to the survey, the gender pay gap across the digital sector is slightly better at 15 per cent than the national average of 17.62%.

Increasing number of 457 visa holders across digital sector

The Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) allows employers to recruit foreign nationals for a period of up to four years, usually to deal with skills shortages. In recent years, Australia's marketing and digital sectors have become more reliant on foreign workers to cope with aforementioned skills shortages.

However, Sangster was cautious about the overuse of 457 visa holders to address skills shortages across the digital and marketing industries. She said: "There is significant opportunity for both employers and employees alike to develop and nurture local talent in order to continue to drive innovation within the Australian digital industry and foster the next generation of digital executives."

The latest data on 457 visas issued, published for the quarter ending 31 December 2015, shows developer programmers are the single biggest occupation coming under the 457 visa scheme. The most popular area in Australia for 457 visa holders is New South Wales, with Indian nationals being the most likely to use the 457 visa.

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