New guidelines released by the Immigration Department will allow mining and infrastructure companies to hire low skilled migrants who were previously denied permission to work in Australia.
The guidelines state that if low skilled workers can show “a genuine need that cannot be met from the Australian labour market,” employers will be able to fly them in.
The latest move to increase semi-skilled workers builds on an already strong trend of immigration for skilled workers.
The number of 457 visas granted to skilled foreigners rose 40 per cent last year.
Australia now hosts 73,500 skilled foreign workers, with average salaries approaching $100,000 a year in some industries.
Under the guidelines companies will have access to an unlimited supply of skilled foreign workers, but the unskilled jobs will be capped at a level yet to be specified.
The guidelines state that foreign work agreements will have to offer conditions equal to normal Australian levels.
“Overseas workers cannot be used to undercut Australian working conditions,” the guidelines state.
“Sponsors must engage overseas workers on terms and conditions of employment that are no less favourable than what the sponsor provides, or would provide, to an Australian to perform equivalent work in the person's workplace at the same location.”
“Employers must also ensure that living conditions for overseas workers are commensurate with those provided to Australian workers.”
Opportunities to hire skilled foreign workers will only be available to resource companies with a capital expenditure of more than $2 billion and a workforce of over 1500 staff.
But new low-skilled visas will be negotiated with each company on a case-by-case basis.