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Report shows value of overseas workers to rural Australia

A new research report released today has further highlighted the critical importance of overseas workers and their families in addressing labour shortfalls in Australian agriculture and enriching regional communities.

The research, commissioned by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), reveals a number of key findings, which clearly show the valuable contribution overseas workers make to the agriculture sector.

These findings include a rise in both the numbers and significance of immigrant farmers in redressing workforce and farm succession issues as well as bringing new technological insights from overseas. The report also supports the National Farmers Federation’s (NFF) call to streamline pathways for migrants to live and work in regional Australia.

NFF President, Brent Finlay, said overseas contributors to Australian agriculture came via a range of pathways, each of which were critical to the long-term prosperity of the sector.

“As this report shows, new immigrants have, over the course of the last decade, made a significant contribution to increased productivity in our agriculture sector and re-energized regional and rural towns,” Mr Finlay said.

“At the 2011 Census, first and second generation immigrants comprised between 22 per cent and 38 per cent of the regional and rural population of Australian states and this rate is expected to rise in the 2016 Census results.

“These individuals, who come from a diverse range of countries and via varying visa pathways, make a contribution to agriculture and to our communities that cannot be underestimated.”

Mr Finlay said respondents to the survey underlying the report indicated that most overseas workers not only found a job in their pre-immigration area of expertise but also found a very warm welcome in Australia and made strong relationships with local residents and fellow workers.

“The NFF, as evidenced in its recent successful pursuit of a fairer rate of tax for working holiday makers, is a strong advocate of the strength overseas workers can bring to agriculture and the benefits these workers also bring to the regions,” Mr Finlay said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with government on measures to encourage more overseas workers into agriculture for the benefit of the sector and the Australian economy.”

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