16 April 2012

Report urges Australia visa changes to replace ageing farmers

A KPMG submission in the Asian Century White Paper has warned that as the ever increasing average age of Australia's farmers approaches retirement age, the country's agriculture sector will suffer and has recommended Australia visa changes in order to combat this.

Australia visa

KPMG warns that half of Australia's farmers will retire within the next year.

The report says the average age of Australian farmers in 2011 was 56 and approximately half of all farmers will retire within the next decade. With the Australian population, and particularly young Australians, becoming increasingly centred on the secondary and tertiary sectors, KPMG warns that Australia visa reform is needed to minimise the impact on the agricultural sector.

KPMG predicts the mass retirement of farmers will lead to many farms being sold to international and corporate investors for their natural resources. This will lead to employment opportunities which, according to KPMG, Australia will struggle to fill.

The report cites figures which suggest a worrying trend; demand for agricultural jobs surpassed supply by almost 30% in 2008 and this figure is only expected to continue growing with the Australian government's microeconomic advisory body, the Productivity Commission, estimating that the agricultural sector will generate a minimum of 32,000 new jobs annually.

"There is a considerable risk that there will be a lack of experienced farmers to train younger farmers who will be critical to driving productivity improvements and adapting to challenges such as climate change, increased competition and an increase on focus on the environmental impacts of farming," said the report.

The Australian government is attempting to invest in domestic workers with initiatives such as the National Workforce Development Fund which is expected to inject AU$558 million (£364 million) into the economy over the next four years.

However, KPMG dismisses this as a short term measure and claims that Australian immigration is the only feasible solution to the growing problem, with the growing Asian population in particular offering the best option.

"In the long term, agricultural skills gaps will inevitably lead to the need to source labour from overseas migration.

"Asia will be an important contributor to bridging the skills gap and Australia will need to develop immigration policies with Asian countries to bridge this shortage."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge their applications with the Australian Embassy London.

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