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Miners make way for chefs, IT staff
In demand: Miners make way for chefs. Picture: Nic Ellis/ The West Australian

The mining slowdown has forced companies to cut demand for overseas workers - but they are being replaced by foreign chefs and IT workers.

In a further confirmation that the peak has been passed in the mining construction boom, new Immigration Department figures reveal a sharp slowdown in applications for 457 temporary work visas.

The subclass 457 visas have been used by WA's mining firms to supplement local workers.

But applications for mining-related visa workers - such as civil engineers, project managers and geologists - fell almost 5 per cent in the first five months of the 2012-13 financial year.

There has also been a near-9 per cent drop in the number of construction-worker 457 visa scheme applications.

Together, the two sectors accounted for a little over 43 per cent of all WA 457 visa applications.

It was 50 per cent 18 months ago.

The drop also accompanies a fall in wages for those coming from overseas for mining jobs. In 2010-11, the average remuneration package for a miner on a 457 work visa in WA was $151,000. It is now $134,000.

A department spokesman said it was clear demand for mining visas was slowing, dragging down overall applications so far this year by more than 10 per cent.

"While the subclass 457 visa stock figure is still high, new take-up of the program is declining, particularly in the construction and mining industries that have driven much of the recent growth in the program," he said.

So far this financial year the number of applications based out of WA has climbed 2.7 per cent compared with the same period in 2011-12. By contrast, demand in NSW is up 13 per cent, 15.2 per cent in Queensland and 12.2 per cent in Victoria. Despite the slowdown, WA now accounts for more than 22 per cent of all 457 visa scheme applications. Only NSW (34 per cent) accounts for more.

But some specialised areas are increasing their use of overseas workers. Visa applications in the accommodation and food services area, covering chefs and cafe managers, has climbed 16 per cent.

Nationally, chefs and cafe-manager applications have almost doubled. IT-related visas are also up, soaring almost 60 per cent in the first five months of the fiscal year.