The Australian government has extended the country's Seasonal Worker Visa Program (subclass 416) to include cattle, sheep, grain, and mixed industries. The announcement to extend the programme comes in the midst of a severe labour shortage across Australia's agricultural sector.
The Seasonal Worker Visa Program helps Australian employers, unable to find enough local workers to meet seasonal labour needs, to recruit from Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste.
Farmers frustrated by lazy, unemployed Aussies who are unwilling to 'get their hands dirty', have applauded the decision, which will help to boost productivity and revenue.
Michaelia Cash, Australia's Minister for Employment said: "Extending the Seasonal Worker Visa Programme to include low and unskilled labourers will ease the strain on the agricultural industry and help to overcome seasonal labour shortages. However, employers will need to prove conclusively that they're unable to recruit candidates locally."
Claims that Labour shortage a result of Australia's 'lazy' youth
Farmers have accused Australia's unemployed youth of being lazy. The government has had to allow entry of foreign labourers on visas to work in the country's stock and grain farms.
Unemployed youth have come under severe criticism, especially since youth unemployment has risen to 20 per cent, yet farmers can't find local workers. This prompted Senator David Leyonhjelm, of Australia's Liberal Democratic Party, to say: "Would those on the dole suddenly find a work ethic if they were stripped of other people's money and were starving?"
Unemployed youth have come under severe criticism, especially since youth unemployment has risen to 20 per cent, yet farmers can't find local workers. This prompted Senator David Leyonhjelm, of Australia's Liberal Democratic Party, to say: "Would those on the dole suddenly find a work ethic if they were stripped of other people's money and were starving?"Leyonhjelm's comments came as a wool industry group warned that Australia was in real danger of losing the traditional skill of sheep shearing. The group said that it was 'training the bare minimum' of shearers. At present Australia is importing shearers from Canada, Ireland and New Zealand to help fill vacancies during busy seasonal periods.
Seasonal Worker Visa Program expanded to include more types of agricultural work
On 8 February 2016 Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, along with Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, announced that the Seasonal Worker Visa Program would be expanded from primarily work in the horticultural field to include a wider range of agricultural work. Under the previous scheme businesses benefitted greatly by being able to employ fruit pickers from overseas; they were unable to recruit suitable people locally.
The most recent data available shows that since 1 July 2012, more than 8,600 visas have been issued under the Seasonal Worker Visa scheme, helping more than 70 approved employers to fill vacancies.
Foreign labour brought into the country by Australian employers are subject to the same employment relations and workplace health and safety safeguards as native job seekers.
Michaelia Cash said: "The Seasonal Worker Visa Program has been highly effective in helping Australian businesses overcome seasonal labour shortages. Employers in a range of agriculture industries including cattle, sheep, grain and mixed enterprises will now be able to be part of the programme."
Barnaby Joyce said that the changes to the Subclass 416, Seasonal Worker Visa Program mean that more agricultural businesses will reap the benefits in regional areas where labour shortages can be acute during peak periods.
"It's good news for Australian farming enterprises because they will have more options when it comes to seasonal labour. They can strategize for harvests and other busy periods with a greater degree of confidence," said Michaelia Cash.
Joyce and Cash did emphasize that safeguards are built into the program, which includes a requirement for employers to fully test the local job market prior to applying to employ foreign labour under the seasonal worker visa program.
Cash said: "Although we're determined to give businesses across Australia access to the seasonal workers they need, we are equally determined that no Australian misses out on a job."
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