Australian industry preferences for backpackers is high because of a lower regulatory regime.
Australia has three types of visa for temporary migration: the Temporary Work visa (subclass 457) for skilled workers; two types of Working Holiday Maker visas (subclasses 417 and 462); and the Seasonal Worker Program (subclass 416), which allows Pacific island workers to be recruited for the horticulture industry.
The s417 Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa enables young backpackers to holiday in Australia and supplement their travel funds through short-term employment.
In November 2005, the then Howard coalition government introduced immigration reforms which allowed for a 12-month WHM s417 visa to be extended for a second year if the applicant does harvest work for three months in a rural or regional area. This reform was extended in 2006 to include the whole agriculture sector and again in 2008, to include mining and construction.
Since the 2005 reforms, the number of people granted a second year s417 extension has risen from 26,821 in December 2012 to 37,088 in December 2014. There is now growing debate about these schemes in Australia with a Senate committee investigating the impact of Australia’s temporary work programs on the Australian labour market. Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman is also investigating breaches of labour law for migrant workers.
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by Nic Maclellan