05 September 2011

Australian immigration 'guest worker' scheme reportedly moves closer to expansion

It has been reported that the Australian government are set to consider plans for an expansion to the existing ‘guest worker’ scheme before the end of this year.

Australian visa

The Australian government is set to consider plans for an expansion to its existing ‘guest worker’ scheme.

Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson is being reported as confirming that the government wishes to expand an existing Australia visa scheme which allows workers in the Pacific to work in Australia’s horticulture industry on farms in selected regions.

The report claims Mr. Ferguson wishes to expand the scheme to include the hospitality and service sectors, after the tourism industry reportedly complained of labour shortages, due mainly to the attraction of larger wages in the mining industry.

Another possible cause for the labour drop in the service industry could be a declining number of foreign students taking up positions at educational institutions in Australia, many of whom would supplement their income by taking up such a position.

Mr. Ferguson, who met recently with tourism chiefs, emphasised opportunities for the tourism sector to employ more staff through state and regional migration programs, working holiday makers and sponsoring 457 visa workers, among others. He said: "Additional incentives are provided for engaging long term unemployed, workers with a disability, mature aged workers and indigenous Australians."

A spokesman for the Tourism and Transport Forum said: “It is an ongoing problem to find people; staff turnover can be quite high as well. In a lot of regional areas (businesses) are competing with mining jobs. Worse still, tourists now expect the labour-intensive service that is standard overseas.

"Customer service is a big issue in Australian tourism," the spokesman said. "In research and surveys it comes up as something that Australians perceive is done better in other places. Obviously if your wages are significantly lower, as in South-East Asia, you've got more bodies on the ground. You can't provide any sort of service if you can't get staff, and finding good staff is more of a challenge."

The guest worker scheme in its present form was announced in August 2008 under Kevin Rudd’s administration following years of opposition from former Prime Minister John Howard.

Many Pacific Island nationals had long requested such a scheme in which agricultural workers are granted temporary residence in Australia to help chronic labour shortages in Australia’s crucial horticulture industry. Foreign workers are paid full wages and receive the same work rights and conditions as Australians. The scheme is similar to an existing program in New Zealand. 

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people lodge their Australia immigration application with the Australian High Commission.

Bookmark and Share