More FactChecking: The ABC on ChAFTA

This ABC FactCheck article on the Chinese-Australia Free Trade Agreement received a lot of attention this week.

Fact check: Does the China Free Trade Agreement threaten Australian jobs?

The claim: Unions say the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement “allows Chinese companies to bring in their own workforce for projects over $150 million and removes the requirement that jobs be offered to local workers first.

The verdict: The agreement allows the Immigration Department to decide that jobs should be offered to local workers before it issues visas to overseas workers, but it does not require this to happen. The ACTU’s claim checks out.

The claim addresses two distinct issues in the Chinese-Australia Free Trade Agreement. The verdict conflates these issues so much so any reader will walk away with an opinion far from “fact”.

Chapter 10 of the Chinese-Australia Free Trade Agreement has removed the requirement for jobs to be offered to local workers under the standard rules of the 457 visa program. If the agreement were retrofitted to the 457 visa program, it would affect about one per cent of all visa holders in Australia at the moment. One per cent.

For some reason the government does not want to tell anyone this. Labour market testing – the process of advertising jobs – only applies to ~30 per cent of the standard 457 visa program. Everyone knows labour market testing is ineffective at pulling Australians into the labour market. This is the reason why seven in ten 457 visas are not subject to mandatory labour market testing.

The most effective way to promote Australians in the labour market is to create a greater price incentive. A 457 visa should cost the sponsoring business more money. This will make them consider alternatives, such as unemployed Australian workers. Any money raised can help support settlement services like English language and/or monitoring and compliance for the program.

The side agreement for projects over $150m is wholly distinct from the standard rules of the 457 visa program.

The Memorandum of Understanding concerns individual contracts signed between a company and the government. There is no legislation that outlines labour market testing must occur in these contracts. Any claim this assumes this already occurs is false. The ACTU claim cannot “check out” because it is based on a false assumption that a requirement has been removed. The only requirement that has been removed is mentioned above, in relation to the standard rules of the 457 visa program.

Further, the side agreement does not cover unskilled occupations, meaning these jobs must be filled by Australian workers.

At best, this FactCheck is ignorant of critical context. At worst, disingenuous.

Innovation and the H-1B program

Skilled migration and innovation go hand in hand, right?

Perhaps not say Kirk Doran, Alexander Gelber and Adam Isen. In their paper, “The Effect of High-Skilled Immigration on Patenting and Employment: Evidence from H-1B Visa Lotteries“, they find that H-1B migrants (the 457 visa equivalent in the United States) have an ‘insignificant average effect on patenting’. (h/t Ryan Edwards)

Further, their results “generally rule out the claim that an additional approved H-1B visa has no negative effect on the employment of other workers at the same firm” (p.4). Meaning H-1B workers – skilled migrants in large organisations – are substituting other workers.

The interesting thing about this paper is the process used. The authors study firms instead of geographic locations because of their data. They match up data from the Immigration Bureau, the Tax Office and the Patent Office [think for a moment if this was possible in Australia] and include a random sorting process because in 2006-07, companies oversubscribed to the H-1B lotto. This means its possible to compare winners and losers of which companies get to hire migrants.

These results are a serious addition to the literature and should be engaged with. The authors acknowledge how their findings go against the grain of some other research where patents have been associated with migrants but their study has an excellent methodology.

This research is difficult to apply to Australia. In the U.S. about 60 per cent of H-1B visas are computer-related, such as software engineers. In Australia, the comparative figure is about 10 per cent. While there are similarities – highly skilled relative to the native population, higher than average salaries, a majority of visas being granted onshore (continuing employment) – the nature of skilled migration in the U.S. and Australia is different. Australia has a much more diverse range of migrants by occupation type than the U.S. and the link to permanent residency through employer-sponsored is much stronger.

This does not mean we should ignore this research. Indeed, Australian policy-makers should be attempting to try and figure out exactly these questions by matching processes. The ABS is currently working on a matching process using ATO and DIBP data for migrant incomes. One assumes there is little standing in the way of a similar exercise to look at companies.

Hopefully more work on these questions will emerge, providing a detailed picture on the micro-effects of migration across different labour markets.

Where the media fails badly and repeatedly: 457 visas

Every three months, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection releases a quarterly update on the 457 visa program.

Every three months, media organisations repeatedly misunderstand these statistics with shoddy data analysis and retard the public’s ability to understand immigration policy.

The most egregious example I found was from Natasha Bita in the Australian yesterday, who led with:

RISING  unemployment has dampened demand for migrant workers, with 40 per cent fewer foreigners seeking visas to work here last financial year.”

Rising unemployment, at the margins, has likely dampened demand for migrant workers. Yet Bita ignores a much more pertinent impact that is behind the trends in 457 visas.

On 1 July 2013, the price of a 457 visa increased by between 200 and 800 per cent, depending on how many family members one has. This price rise was flagged before it was introduced, meaning people whose visa was due to expire, say in the following 12 months, applied early to beat the fee increases. We can see this here:

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 2.18.45 pm

(Source: Subclass 457 visa quarterly report – June 2014, p.1)

These people who applied for visas in June 2013, without any price rise, would have applied for these visas nearer the date their visas were due to expire sometime in 2013-14. This price increase has meant comparing visa trends from 2012-13 and 2013-14 is highly problematic and should be done with a great deal of caution.

While visa applications fell by 40 per cent between the two years, the number of primary 457 visa holders in the labour market actually increased by 0.8 per cent when you compare 30 June 2013 and 30 June 2014. This can be seen here:

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 2.22.49 pm

So we should ask ourselves, has demand for 457 visas “plummeted”? No, it hasn’t. In fact, the three month visa application trend in the first graph shows gradual increases in applications, meaning the window where people applied for their visas early to beat the price rise is likely closing. My guess would be that demand for 457 visas is about the same as it was 12 months ago, perhaps slightly less.

This stuff is on PAGE ONE of the statistical report.

Given this basic piece of data analysis is missing from Bita’s article, any inferred causations should be ignored. Rising unemployment has likely played a role in reducing labour demand for 457 visa applications but the impact of prices is significantly more relevant to this story.

The Australian wasn’t the only example of this reporting. SBS’ Gary Cox writes:

“The food services and accommodation sector is the biggest employer of foreign workers, but the number of staff on 457 skilled visas has halved in the past financial year, with rising costs and paperwork being blamed by employers.”

At no point does Cox challenge or investigate the claims of employers. If he did, he would see their claims are bogus. Cox says “the number of staff on 457 skilled visas has halved in the past financial year”. This isn’t even close to being correct.

On 30 June 2013, there were 10,010 primary visa holders in the accommodation and food services industry (table 1.22). 12 months later, this had increased to 13,940 (table 1.22). This is an additional 3930 people, an increase of nearly 40 per cent.

So employers are claiming rising costs and paper have occurred recently (true) however at the same time, this has resulted in an increase of nearly 40 per cent in the industry compared to growth in the program as a whole of less than one per cent. Gary Cox isn’t just wrong, he has come to the completely opposite conclusion to what he should have.

Some people may dismiss these concerns as journalists simply writing to deadlines with little experience in what they are writing about. Everyone makes mistakes.

But the opportunity cost of this shoddy, second-rate, completely useless journalism is that real policy issues go unnoticed.

Why are the number 457 visa holders for positions like Cooks, Chefs and Cafe Managers going through the roof while other occupations stagnate? Likely because of systematic abuse within the hospitality sector of the 457 visa program. Why is the capacity of the bureaucracy to investigate this so limited? Why do we wail over policy prescription and ignore enforcement and compliance mechanisms?

These questions need answers. The editors at the Australian and SBS should do better. There is a real story to be told but its not the rubbish which is being served up every three months when DIBP releases their quarterly reports.

Should organisations that use the 457 visa program be publicly named?

tl;dr Yes. Where enough risk lurks, public disclosure can help mitigate.

In the United States, this isn’t a complex question. Engagement with the government is liable to public disclosure. A derivative of freedom of speech, this penetrates across all levels of government. For example, the U.S. public doesn’t only know who sponsors migrants but how many each firm sponsors and at what wage. This public accountability feeds directly into the public debate about skilled migration in the U.S.

In Australia, a default public disclosure culture does not exist. Privacy – even for employers – is often embedded deep within public organisations and governments. This can be seen from our Freedom of Information framework and the lack of open data compared to many other countries.

For many situations, Australian governments of both stripes will go a long way to protect individuals from even a minimal risk of harm. This can be a positive. The abusive ex-lover. A vengeful employer. There is a litany of reasons why privacy is important across government portfolios from an individual point of view. In the U.S., the names of sponsored migrants are not released.

Yet when this privacy is conferred on for-profit organisations, we need to acknowledge the differences. An employer is not a person (with the tricky exception of the self-employed).

There are good reasons for employers not disclosing everything they do. Trade secrets promote innovation. Operational and policy work, particularly for firms which compete internationally, is the bread and butter of revenues and profits.

When interacting with government, employers sometimes have strong foundations for privacy. Procurement is such an example. Employers bid for government contracts and provide a large amount of sensitive commercial information in the process. This becomes ‘commercial-in-confidence’ and the government is obliged to keep it out of the public eye. In most situations, this makes government procurement run more smoothly than it otherwise would (however I would note the government has a large bargaining chip with its procurement and often fails to utilise this effectively).

Away from procurement and matters such as payroll tax, the notion of commercial-in-confidence becomes harder to sustain.

One example is employers using sponsored visas.

At the moment, we know very little about the 457 visa program.

We don’t know which companies hire 457 visa holders but we know over 35,000 do.

We don’t know how many workers each firm hires, except in the aggregate.

We don’t know what jobs they are hired to perform, except in the aggregate.

What we do know – aggregate descriptive statistics and some detailed non-firm specific survey research – speaks about the program but this information is not of the program.

Because of what we do not know, further knowledge is stymied such as how firms operate in labour markets under certain conditions and environments. This stifles policy making, amongst other things.

On this matter of disclosure, I think the question should be: does the benefit of this information being made public outweigh potential costs to the employers? Here is my attempt to outline various positions one could take.

The benefits of disclosure (from strongest arguments to weakest)

Research: Current research on temporary skilled migration in Australia is poor compared to what occurs in the U.S. where disclosure occurs. Some excellent examples are Michael Clemens on wages, Peri, Shih and Sparbar on productivity and Jansen and Piermartini on trade flows. All of these pieces used freely available U.S. temporary skilled visa data to provide valuable insights. In Australia, researchers must pass multiple barriers just to access anything better than basic aggregates. There is no detailed employer-specific information. This hurts analysis on understanding the effects of migration on the labour market and other economic concepts and restricts the ability to undertake qualitative research. The long-term opportunity cost is large for migrants, employers and policy-makers.

Risks to migrants: There is an inherent risk in being a sponsored migrant. Labour market mobility is heavy restricted to achieve policy goals. In the vast majority of cases, this is not a major impediment (approximately 5 per cent of migrants surveyed say their employer does not meet their obligations). However for the small minority of migrants where this causes major employment issues, vulnerability to exploitation is raised by excessive privacy. Publicly disclosing the names of employers mitigates this risk of exploitation by allowing non-government individuals and organisations to better intervene on behalf of migrants.

Cheaper government monitoring: Monitoring visa compliance is expensive and difficult. There is also an argument to be made we are not very good at it. Currently if government is unable to undertake monitoring activity, then it does not occur. By disclosing the names of employers who use the 457 visa program, other actors can generate accountability. The media, migrant support organisations, unions and other employers will use this information to ensure legislative conditions are being met by specific employers. This may only help at the margins but the cost associated with disclosure (in financial terms at least) is near zero meaning any marginal assistance on enforcement is likely beneficial.

Risks to Australian workers: There is a more diffuse risk to Australian workers. While skilled migrants on 457 visas in are beneficial to average Australian wages and probably beneficial to the aggregate number of jobs, it is likely a minority of individual employers will seek to exploit migrants on 457 visas, impacting Australian wages and conditions in that particular workplace and possibly in that local labour market. By publicly releasing the names of employers who use the 457 visa program, this behaviour is less likely to occur at the margins given workers in the labour market have access to more information.

The costs of disclosure (from strongest to weakest)

Public targeting of employers and misinformation: Undoubtedly the largest potential cost is specific employers being targeted because they employ people on 457 visas. Misinformation about how this occurs, combined with a visceral public reaction, will likely lead to individual examples of companies being harassed. The media will chase populist stories. In extreme circumstances, this may lead to tense situations where employers are placed in untenable positions and react to public opinion rashly, thereby hurting migrants and possibly other Australian workers. This may all occur despite employers meeting all their legal obligations.

Impact on employers (I): As an employee, we don’t know the intimate financial details about a firm. We can look up their annual report and similar information shareholders might use (if a public company). We can sniff around if its a local gig. Therefore we shouldn’t have intimate details about a firm’s labour policy, including where their workers come from. In a tight labour market, where employees have choice and more power, individuals may actively seek to avoid companies who employ 457 visa holders (akin to the ‘Buy Australian’ campaigns). In combination with a broader populist campaign, this could result in more negative employment environments where people on 457 visas work.

Impact on employers (II): More public information of any type tilts employment negotiations towards employees. Using publicly available data about migrant workers, workplace negotiators and unions will bargain differently. This may lead to positives for existing employees but as an employer, this would be a negative. Also, one can imagine new bargaining strategies around proportions of Australian workers and stipulations about migrants (in the aggregate) within employment agreements. This is by no means certain and may play out in the background of any negotiations but it is not impossible to imagine how this could work.

(Note: there are other arguments and counter-arguments to those listed above but I think these are the main considerations)

I do not consider the cost arguments strongly, apart from the first. I’m sure others can make them more persuasively than I have.

I also believe as we are discussing a potential public good, the onus for privacy should fall on employers, not on the government. Currently, this is very much not the case.

Thinking about this, I keep coming back to the benefits of open source information. The OECD migration report for 2002 accurately identifies ‘market signals’ being dampened by poor or unreliable information in labour markets, which negatively affects workers, industry, employers and education and training institutions. This benefit is difficult to quantify but undoubtedly it exists.

In conclusion, I see a strong net benefit for the public, migrants and even employers in releasing more detailed information about how sponsors use the 457 visa program. This would need to be done with the necessary privacy controls for migrants and should occur carefully given the potential risks.

What is the labour force participation rate for secondary 457 visa holders?

Senate Estimates question BE14/118:

Senator Carr (L&CA 85) asked:

Senator KIM CARR: Are you able to provide me with a breakdown of the number of secondary 457 holders actively participating in the workforce?

Dr Southern: We would have to take that one on notice. I am not sure.

Answer:

The department does not record the number of secondary subclass 457 visa holders who are actively participating in the workforce.

The Department of Immigration should not be tasked with collecting the labour market status of partners of visa holders. Fair enough.

However the Department does have some information about this specific question which could (should?) have been provided to Senator Carr.

In 2012, a survey was commissioned on the 457 visa program. In this survey are a handful of questions about the partners of 457 visa holders. A quick summary:

Do you currently have a partner living with you in Australia? 67 per cent responded yes.

If yes, did this partner migrate with you? 68 per cent responded yes.

(Asked if yes to previous two questions) Does your partner work in a job, business or firm? 61 per cent responded yes.

If no, has your partner looked for work in the past four weeks? 32 per cent responded yes.

Using the first two questions, we can assume 45 per cent of 457 visa holders migrate with a partner. In the parlance of government, these people are called secondary migrants, a group which also includes children.

We know from this question that at the end of April 2014, there were about 110,000 primary visa holders and 89,000 secondary visa holders. 45 per cent of 110,000 is 49,500 partners, leaving about 39,500 children.

Assuming 49,500 partners migrated with the primary visa holder and were living in Australia in April 2014, we can use the third and fourth survey questions to estimate a very rough labour force participation rate.

Partners of 457 visa holders: 49,500

In work: 30,195 (61 per cent of 49,500)

Looking for work: 6,180 (32 per cent of 39 per cent of 49,500)

Not looking for work: 13,125 (68 per cent of 39 per cent of 49,500)

Labour force participation rate: 73 per cent (In Work plus Looking for work divided by total Partners).

Unemployment rate: (approximately) 17 per cent (Looking for work divided by Looking for work plus In work).

Caveats

First of all, people can reply to surveys in strange ways. This survey is asking one person (the primary visa holder) about a different person (their partner). While we can assume most people know their partners very well, the question about looking for work should be taken with a grain of salt. Maybe these migrants thought it would be good to say they were looking for work. Maybe the primary visa holder has no idea about their spouse.

Second, we are using percentages from one survey to infer about a different population of people. While the survey group from 2012 and migrants of 2014 are alike, they are not a perfect match. Thankfully the survey sample was very large meaning we don’t need to worry too much about serious bias but should keep this in mind particularly when we notice big shifts in trends.

Third, there is some uncertainty about the percentages relating to partners. The questions do not allow for the nuance of real life. Partners can migrate at the same time as the primary visa holder or at anytime afterwards. I don’t know what is the most common. I’d guess most people migrate together however I can think of a variety of reasons why this might not be so. The purpose of asking these questions – to sort out migrants from Australian born partners – is important however leaves us with a degree of uncertainty.

Fourth, we don’t know if the partner/children split of 49,500 / 39,500 is completely accurate as we’re using an assumption from the survey. From my experience, this sounds approximately correct it’s hard to nail down. The Department does not release the age of secondary visa holders so this is an assumption, not a fact.

Finally, this still does not answer Senator Carr’s question. He asked about secondary visa holders and this data only relates to partners. Of the 39,500 children – also secondary visa holders – we should assume at least some of them are working or are looking for work. We simply don’t know how many meaning we can’t fully answer Senator Carr’s question.

Despite these possible reasons for doubt, I think this information is useful. It provides a rough estimate for Senator Carr for his question. The labour force participation rate appears in the ballpark of what I consider reasonable. It is higher than the average for the Australian labour market because temporary migrants have no access to welfare support and probably need more income to live than an average household.

We can also assume about two thirds of partners are women as primary visa holders are two thirds male (we have no way to account for same-sex couples from the survey or other data released by the department). We know about half are from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Deducing from these two demographic details, a 17 per cent unemployment rate stands out. Non-english speaking female workers are more likely to be exploited in the labour market and have difficulty finding work. This certainly wasn’t the focus of Senator Carr’s question but I feel this is important to note.

Q&A

Immigration estimates question BE14/126, regarding people who hold a 457 visa:

Senator KIM CARR: How many workers have had serious work-related injuries, say in the last year? Can you tell me that?

Dr Southern: Not off the top of my head. We will take that on notice.

Answer:

The department is unable to provide statistics on work place injuries sustained by Subclass 457 visa holders as there is no legislative requirement for a sponsor to notify the department of such events.

This is a textbook Senate Estimates example of politicians asking the wrong questions and bureaucrats obfuscating the provision of further information.

Kim Carr is very interested in 457 visas. He is a known opponent of the increasing scale of the 457 visa program and considers there to be a lack of in-built protection within the program for Australian workers, including a negative safety impact on workplaces. This is an important issue, understated and under-analysed, particularly in industries such as construction and hospitality.

However he ends up with no information.

Contrary to the answer provided, in fact, the Department of Immigration could provide this information. While it is true there is no legislative requirement to notify the department of ‘serious work-related injuries’, the department can ask for such information. Under “sponsor obligations”, employers must provide certain information, when requested. This includes any information or record that is “required under Commonwealth, state or territory law”.

I would consider serious work-related injuries to fall under the provision of organisations such as WorkCover (to use the Victoria example) who are required to be notified in the case of serious work-related injuries. On the Victorian Workcover Authority website, employers must “keep a Register of Injuries to keep track of work-related injuries and illnesses” in relation to lodging claims. For each injury where claims are involved, an individual claim form must be lodged. Under the 457 obligations, each of these forms are available for the department to request.

Instead of asking the 35,000 employers who sponsor 457 visa holders for their workcover claim forms, the Department has obviously thought about this particular issue. There are are a set of Memorandum of Understanding’s with these state organisations (here is the NSW version). These documents allow exactly for this type of analysis, swapping information to better understand issues such as worker safety.

That this analysis has not occurred is my fault as much as much as anyone elses. When I worked in the 457 policy team, I never thought of looking into something like this. However these types of estimate questions are excellent catalysts which should flow back into the bureaucracy as a feedback mechanism to prompt analysis. Are 457 visa holders, relative to Australian workers, more prone to serious work-related injuries? This is an important question, perhaps why Senator Carr is asking in the first place, and deserves an answer. It doesn’t have to be immediate but it should be on the radar. Would this analysis be time consuming? Yes. But worthwhile.

One thing is clear. The answer provided by the department is clearly designed to chase away further inquiries on this topic. Many departmental answers provided stick to the minimal amount of information required, dismissing the intent or framework of the question. In this particular answer, there is no reference to employer obligations relating to work-related injuries or the departmental framework which has been established – such as the MoU’s – to deal with this type of issue. This style of response is now embedded across the public service, an attempt to minimalise avenues for future questions and deliberately limit the scope of information provided to parliamentarians.

I don’t believe the department has actively lied here but it has not provided the correct response. This is a mistake, at worst. However because policy officers are tasked with providing the least amount of possible information to limit risk, this type of mistake – loose wording provided to parliamentarians – occurs often. I did it multiple times and look back on responses I drafted with dismay.

From within the bureaucracy, its very hard to see something like this as an issue. But it is. This is one very small example of bureaucratic culture stifling parliamentary accountability for very specific political and resource-related reasons. It doesn’t help when there are thousands of questions to answer (a blogpost for another time). But politicians need to know what occurs inside the public service as well as how it works. This should be a relatively simple request from Senator Carr but it isn’t. For (at least) the next two years Carr is going to be asking these questions about visas in the labour market. If he is ignorant about basic capacity of the department which is responsible, we get a less accountable system of governance. If he is ignorant because he cannot get information relatively straight forward information from the public service, there is something seriously wrong with the system.

If I may suggest some followup questions if this initial response is considered insufficient:

How many times has the Department requested sponsors provide records on workcover claims relating to migrants who hold a 457 visa?

How often has the Department requested information from State-based workplace authorities under the existing set of MoUs?

How does the Department monitor workplace safety for 457 visas? What analysis has occurred to determine the rate of serious workplace injuries relative to Australian workers?

Not quite right: The Australian and 457 visa data

The Australian, on 457 visas:

EMPLOYERS have recruited 37,620 foreign managers, professionals and tradespeople this year, despite a growing pool of 191,000 unemployed Australians qualified for the same jobs.

Official data reveals that while 67,000 Australian technicians and tradies search for work, employers have brought in 10,210 foreign trade workers on 457 work visas during the first nine months of this financial year. Employers also looked offshore for 19,260 professional staff, despite a pool of 83,700 Australians unemployed.

And 8150 managers were sponsored on 457 visas, despite 40,200 Australian managers on the dole queue.

(the rest of the story is a tit-for-tat union/business stoush which I’ll sit out of this time)

To me, this reads as if 37,620 new managers, professionals and tradespeople – who happen to be foreign citizens – have arrived in Australia to work on 457 visas in the 2013-14 financial year.

I infer this because of the specific mention of “recruited” workers and how employers looked “offshore”.

But this isn’t quite right. This table shows the number of 457 visas granted to people outside of Australia:

1 Managers   3 605
2 Professionals   11 135
3 Technicians and Trades Workers   3 716
4 Community and Personal Service Workers    138
5 Clerical and Administrative Workers    229
6 Sales Workers    97
7 Machinery Operators and Drivers    175
8 Labourers    33
Not Applicable   23 425
Skilled Meat Worker    144
Not Specified <5
Offshore Total   42 699

The article claims 10,210 tradespeople were ‘brought in’ to Australia when in fact the number was 3,716.

The article claims employers ‘looked offshore’ for 19,260 professionals when in fact the number was 11,315.

The article is less certain on managers, of which 8150 were simply ‘sponsored on 457 visas’ (true), but the number recruited from offshore was 3,605.

Note the numbers in the article are all inflated to how many people total were sponsored by employers – not the figure for those recruited from offshore.

This is the corresponding result for visas granted to people already in Australia, i.e. the number recruited onshore:

1 Managers   4 542
2 Professionals   8 120
3 Technicians and Trades Workers   6 489
4 Community and Personal Service Workers    406
5 Clerical and Administrative Workers    568
6 Sales Workers    182
7 Machinery Operators and Drivers    87
8 Labourers    38
Not Applicable   12 736
Skilled Meat Worker    49
Not Specified <5
Onshore Total   33 218

As you can see, over 40 per cent of 457 visas were granted to people in Australia already.

Unfortunately we lack more precise data on these people. But I believe it is likely a majority of these people already work for their employer, probably on either an existing 457 visa, a working holiday visa or a student visa.

If this is the case, there is no ‘recruitment’ occurring. We know for certain these people did not materialise ‘offshore’.

Further, if this is the case, we can debate whether this is a good practice or not and whether these people should lose their jobs and be given to Australian’s who are currently unemployed.

But we shouldn’t debate the numbers as reported by the Department of Immigration. The report in the Australian overestimates the number of people actually entering the labour market by a large proportion. Onshore visa holders are already living and working in Australia.

These files are easily available and even in handy pivot table form on the Departmental website.

For the only national broadsheet to not put some context around them is disappointing. And we haven’t even touched on adding in some historical comparisons to understand trends in either unemployment or visa grants.

I cannot imagine a similar standard of reporting concerning economic growth or unemployment statistics.