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Do 457 visas give SMEs a stamp of approval?

18 April, 2013

Are migrant workers on 457 visas turning down the chance to work for resources industry giants and instead choosing employment with smaller firms?

This question is the focus of a new study by Edith Cowan University (ECU) researchers. Last year Dr Susanne Bahn completed an industry-first study into the use of 457 visas in the WA resources sector as a whole.

But that study also highlighted how smaller firms were using 457 visas, raising some interesting questions for further investigation.

Some respondents to the 2012 study indicated that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were employing the same migrant workers who had been turned down by large multinationals for being under-qualified.

But other respondents said the smaller firms offered better pay and conditions for the migrant worker and their families.

Building on the 2012 study Dr Bahn, together with her co-researchers in the Centre for Innovative Practice, including School of Management Head Professor Rowena Barrett, who is an expert in small firm research, is now investigating these claims and is recruiting participants to help further explain the use of 457 visas within SMEs.

Dr Bahn said this new study would give SMEs greater understanding of the recruitment process, given that a worker on a 457 visa can cost up to $60,000 in recruitment and relocation costs.

"What we want to find out is how small firms compete for skilled labour. Are they taking workers who have been rejected by the multinationals and if so, are they getting value for money?" Dr Bahn said.

"We know the multinationals are able to attract workers because of reputation and the cachet of working for recognisable organisation. But SMEs have the advantage of offering closer worker-manager relationships that provide increased support for workers and their families.

"Interestingly, the previous study suggested that SMEs perceived that recruiting migrant workers was a way of proving themselves in the industry. We want to know if this is the case."

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