Voices from Sichuan Hot Pot House

Sichuan Hot Pot House (Photo: Ziyu Liu)

The Abolition of 457 visa

‘Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs,’ Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said at a Canberra press conference on April 18th, 2017. According to the announcement of The Federal Government, the 457 visa will be abolished and replaced by two stricter programs to improve the standard of applying working visa. Additionally, in order to reduce Australian society’s dependence on foreign workers, a new training program will be established by Australian government to assist Australians fill ‘real skill gaps’.

What is a 457 visa?

The 457 visa is a business visa given by the Australian Government for four years to overseas workers and their family members. As of now, 95,758 foreign people are holding 457 visas, including their family members. Additionally, the Australian Government issued 45,400 visas to overseas workers in the last financial year. 457 visa is one of the most common legal approaches for foreign people to work in Australia.

Total number of 457 visas issued per year (Source: ABC)

457 visa and Chinese People

According to the report from Parliament of Australia, the most 457 workers come from India, the United Kingdom, China and Ireland and most of them are employed by food services, accommodation, and IT industries. Additionally, a report from Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the number of Australian residents born in China has more than doubled the last decade and occupies 2% percent of Australian population. Since Australia is considered as one of the most popular country to immigrate by Chinese people, the abolition of 457 will inevitably affect their future plans of working or immigrating to Australia.

Sichuan Hot Pot House

Sichuan Hot Pot House (Photo: Ziyu Liu)

Sichuan Hot Pot House is a Chinese restaurant located at 94 Hay Street, Haymarket, Sydney. The owner of the restaurant is a Chinese woman who became an Australian citizen in 2012. All of the staffs in Sichuan Hot Pot House are Chinese people who are currently holding 457 visas or student visas.

Interviews:

In order to analyse how and to what extend the abolition of 457 visa affects Chinese people’s future plans of living and working in Australia, 3 staffs (including the owner) of Sichuan Hot Pot House are selected as interviewees. Hong Wang is Australia citizen who owns the restaurant. Tony Zhao is the restaurant staff who is currently holding 457 visa. Celia Xi is a student visa holder and currently doing a part time job in Sichuan Hot Pot restaurant. Basically,  2 questions were prepared for them to answer. Firstly, they were asked to briefly introduce themselves and then the question ‘how and to what extent the abolition of 457 visa will affect your current situation and future plan’ was put forward for them to answer.

Hong Wang, Australian Citizen, owner of Sichuan Hot Pot House (Photo: Ziyu Liu)

Hong Wang considers the abolition of 457 visa is not good for the development of Australia economy. Moreover, as for the influences on her businesses, she thinks that the change of 457 visa will make it difficult for both herself and other companies to employ workers. Firstly, the costs will be increased if she employed local workers as staffs rather than Chinese workers. Secondly, since the most guests of the restaurant are Chinese people, such as Chinese workers and Chinese students, it is hard to employ a local employee who can speak both Chinese and English fluently.

Tony Zhao, current 457 visa holder (Photo: Ziyu Liu)

Tony Zhao is a current 457 visa holder who possesses the plan of immigrating Australia. As for the influences of the abolition of 457 visa on his current situation, he is pretty optimistic and considers the policy change will not negatively affect his current career. He considers that the abolition of 457 visa is easier for him to apply the citizenship of Australia because the policy change can reduce the numbers of his competitors. However, he still considers the policy change will bring some negative effects to his future plans. He mentions, ‘if my families and friends want to immigrate to Australia, it is hard for them. I cannot live in Australia without them.’

Celia Xi,current student visa holder (Photo: Ziyu Liu)

Celia Xi is a current student visa holder who just graduated from Wollongong University. She possesses the plan of immigrating to Australia, however, her current visa will be expired 3 months after. She considers the abolition of 457 visa to a great extent affects her future plans and says, ‘the policy change makes me lose lots of chances of immigrating. In order to stay in Australia, I have to pass IELTS exams firstly, which is a big challenge for me.’ She feels so confused about her future life in Australia.

Austin Pitman, Australian Citizen (Photo: Ziyu Liu)

Austin Pitman is Hong Wang’s husband and he is a commercial lawyer in Sydney. As an Australia citizen, he claims that the policy change will not lead to some positive outcomes but mainly lead to several negative effects. Firstly, it is a challenge for many companies to employ skilled workers, the costs of some small businesses will be inevitably increased because they cannot easily employ cheap overseas workers. Secondly, the policy change will reduce the number of people coming into Australia. The reduction of the number of skilled overseas workers will inevitably slow or even hinder the development of Australian economy.

Discussion

Although some Chinese people who are highly educated still have opportunities of working or immigrating Australia even if 457 visa is abolished, the policy change indeed strangled most Chinese people’s hope of immigrating Australia. The majority of Chinese people who want to work in Australia are not highly educated and they cannot speak English fluently. Their primary aim of working in Australia is making money and getting rid of poverty. Therefore, 457 visa is their only opportunity of working in Australia legally.

As for the policy change’s influences on Australian society, although local people’s job opportunities are greatly guaranteed, the reduction of the number of skilled overseas workers will inevitably slow or even hinder the development of Australian economy.

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