The National Farmers’ Federation has welcomed results showing a 20% increase in the number of backpackers applying for a second year working holiday maker visa.
43,219 second year visas were granted under the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) program last financial year – 7,000 more than the previous year.
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, David Coleman explained that these visas are only available to working holiday makers who undertake specified work in regional Australia.
“That’s 7,000 more young people picking crops, milking cows, shearing sheep and supporting tourism in regional Australia,” Mr Coleman said.
“We know there are some jobs in regional Australia that aren’t being filled by Australian workers, and we are giving regional businesses the immigration settings to help them fill those roles.
NFF CEO Tony Mahar said the farm sector’s productivity was constrained by a deficit of about 100,000 workers per year, as estimated by the Australian Farm Institute.
The labour shortage is acutely felt in short-term, intensive, low-skilled roles such as picking and packing fruit and vegetables.NFF Chief Executive, Tony Mahar
“Backpackers are an ideal fit for these roles. They are typically seeking short-term work to qualify for a second or third year visa.”
The 20% increase in working holiday makers translates to about 7,000 more people spending at least three months working in the regions, mostly on farms.
“More backpackers is not only good news for farmers but for the small communities in which backpackers stay, work and spend money in,” Mr Mahar said.
The significant increase in the number of backpackers also bides well for the third year extension which the Government announced last year, and the potential expansion of the program to other countries such as the Philippines and India.
Mr Mahar said the NFF had a bold vision for the industry to exceed $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030 and solving the sector’s workforce woes was key to agriculture reaching it’s potential.
“While more backpackers is far from a complete solution to our labour woes, it is certainly welcomed assistance for farmers and small communities.”