New Delhi: India on Tuesday expressed concern over Australia’s moves to abolish a popular work visa used by about 100,000 foreign workers, a majority of them Indians, to tackle the growing unemployment in that country.
India’s misgivings were conveyed during a telephone call placed by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to his Indian counterpart Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a statement from Modi’s office said.
“Prime Minister Modi expressed concern about the possible impact of the recent changes in Australian regulations for the skilled professionals’ visa programme. The two Prime Ministers agreed that officials from both sides will remain in close touch on the issue," the statement said.
Last month, Australia announced plans to replace its popular 457 visa programme with a new one requiring higher English-language proficiency and job skills. The 457 visa programme allows businesses to employ foreign workers for a period up to four years in skilled jobs where there is a shortage of Australian workers.
The majority of the visa holders under the 457 programme were from India followed by the UK and China. As of 30 September, there were 95,757 workers in Australia on primary 457 visas and 76,430 secondary visa holders (members of their family), a PTI report quoting Australia’s ABC news said.
The Indian statement said that Modi and Turnbull also “discussed the follow-up action taken after the visit of Mr. Turnbull to India last month, and the steps required to further strengthen the bilateral relationship."
Turnbull was on a three-day visit to India last month, his first to India since taking over as prime minister from Tony Abbott in September 2015.