Australia signs agreement with China over skilled workers

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Australia and China have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to try and prevent overseas Chinese workers from being charged exorbitant fees by unscrupulous recruitment agencies operating in China.

The MOU was signed by Australian Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews and Chinese Minister of Commerce Hon Bo Xilai. The MOU "establishes a framework for Chinese recruitment agents to supply Australian employers with skilled overseas workers on the understanding that they cannot charge these workers for their recruitment services."

The costs associated with bringing in skilled labor from overseas are supposed to fall on the employer. However, in some cases, temporary migrants from China have been charged tens of thousands of dollars to obtain visas by dodgy recruitment agencies.

"Chinese recruitment agents who agree to abide by the MOU guidelines will be able to apply to have their name listed on [the Australian immigration department's] website and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce website," Andrews said. "Any recruitment agent who is found to have breached the guidelines will be removed from the websites."

Unfortunately, a spokesperson confirmed that the only way the Australian government would know if an agent listed on the website was secretly charging fees would be if the workers told authorities.

Australia's strong economy and record low unemployment have resulted in a need for skilled workers. The nation's temporary 457 visa has been a popular program for employers wishing to employ skilled labor from overseas.

Andrews said the MOU was an important step forward in cooperation between both countries.