Recruitment myth: Migrants given jobs over Aussies

by Stephanie Zillman13 Aug 2012

HR at mining and resources companies are not giving away jobs to migrants that could have gone to Australian workers, a new study has found.

According to researchers at Perth's Edith Cowan University School of Management, HR continues to battle a frustrating misconception whereby the public believe temporary migrant workers are favoured over skilled locals. Yet, preliminarily findings from the pilot study have strongly indicated that migrants on 457 visas are filling highly-skilled positions that simply cannot be met by using the local workforce alone. “Some of the skills required are so specialised and only taught in one or two institutions globally, that the skill-set required is simply not available,” research leader Susanne Bahn said.

As a case in point, Bahn gave the example of helicopter engineers who are needed to maintain equipment for oil and gas projects. These specialist engineers typically require up to six specialised licences that are only taught in the UK and France.

The researchers found that the migrant workforce plays a significant role in helping major projects get off the ground, and backed up speculation that some skilled workers from the eastern states are reluctant to relocate to Western Australia. There is evidence which indicates that even when eastern-based workers had been recently made redundant, many would still be reluctant to move west because of the high cost of living in Western Australia, a lack of infrastructure in some areas, as well as due to social and family reasons.

The study follows widespread condemnation from the unions over the Labor government’s approval of 1,700 foreign workers to be brought in for Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill project in Western Australia.

Stay tuned to HC – on Thursday we look at the costs vs. benefits of hiring migrants with working rights and consider the public argument around ‘migrants taking Aussie jobs’.


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