Skilled overseas workers on 457 visas are not taking away resources sector jobs from Australians, a university study has found.
Researchers at Perth's Edith Cowan University School of Management say there is a public perception that temporary migrant workers are reducing opportunities for skilled locals, but preliminarily findings of a pilot study show this is not the case.
They say 457 visas, the program Australian employers most commonly use to sponsor specialised skilled workers from overseas temporarily, play an essential role in the resources sector by filling highly-skilled positions that cannot be met locally.
"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.
She gave the example of helicopter engineers needed to maintain equipment for oil and gas projects, who require up to six specialised licences that are only taught in the United Kingdom and France.
Migrant workers played a significant role in helping major resource projects get off the ground, the study found.
It also back-up anecdotal evidence that some skilled eastern states workers are reluctant to relocate to Western Australia - even when they have been recently retrenched - because of the high cost of living in the mining state, a lack of infrastructure in some areas and social and family reasons.