Crikey’s rough figuring that wages growth is being kept down by Section 457 visa guest workers and other imported labour seems to have been very conservative indeed – the 457 indentured labour scheme has been rocketing ahead faster than even we imagined.

On Monday we were making do with figures for the 2005-06 financial year, but Section 457 visas jumped by 17% in the first half of the current financial year.

DIAC issued nearly 40,000 of the 457 guest worker visas in 05-06, up by about 45% on the previous year according to the AFR. If the growth rate set in the December half is maintained, this year’s total will be 46,800.

The great thing from an employer’s point of view about this type of non-migration is that the guest workers are effectively bound to the sponsoring company for the years that they’re here and can’t reap the usual benefit of living in a free society with an open labor market – you don’t have to worry about them accepting a better offer from the company down the road.

Along with the skilled migration intake – much of which is also company-sponsored — it’s playing a major role in keeping wages growth well below the rise in company profits.

Peter Fray

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