The peak body of the restaurant and catering industry says it has struck a special deal with the government to make it easier to bring in overseas workers through the 457 skilled migration visa program.

The sector is currently experiencing a shortfall of 56,000 workers with Chefs, cooks and restaurant managers among the most difficult vacancies to fill, according to statement released by Restaurant & Catering Australia (R&CA). The R&CA is the industry’s peak body that representing some 35,000 restaurants and catering businesses across Australia.

The statement says that employment growth in the cafe, restaurant and takeaway food services sector will require an additional 43,700 jobs by November 2018. The rate of employment growth in this sector is expected to be higher than any other sector in the Australian economy, growing at around 8.5 per cent.

To deal with the ‘chronic labour shortage’ the labour agreement will lower the temporary skilled migration income threshold (TSMIT) by 10 per cent for restaurants that meet specific criteria.

“This moderate concession means it will be more feasible for operators to hire overseas workers, should they be able to demonstrate they have experienced prolonged vacancies in their businesses,” said John Hart, R&C A chief executive.

Under the Restaurant (Fine Dining) Industry Labour Agreement, businesses will be need to meet criteria to access skilled migrants, including having an la carte menu, having uniformed staff and a maître d’ and industry recognition through award programs. The agreement also outlines the skills, qualifications and English language requirements needed to work in Australia.

In the 2014-15 financial year, the accommodation and food services industry was the largest user of the 457 temporary work (skilled) visa program, with 4,350 applications granted.

Cooks, cafe and restaurant managers, and chefs ranked in the top 15 nominated occupations for primary applications in that year.