The Joint Standing Committee on Migration has launched an inquiry into the Working Holiday Maker program to ensure it is working effectively to support the tourism, health care and agriculture sectors during the COVID-19 economic recovery.
Working Holiday Makers contribute around $3 billion a year to the Australian economy and support jobs in regional Australia. They arrive in Australia with money to spend and inject the wages they earn here back into local communities.
The program is also important for building people-to-people links and gives young Australians the chance to visit and work in over 40 countries.
Working holiday makers are a major contributor to the labour force in the agriculture, tourism, health care and aged care sectors.
There are around 50,000 fewer backpackers in Australia because of the coronavirus, but once borders re-open, they will be key to filling some roles where Australian workers are usually not available, particularly in regional areas.
The Committee will look at how backpackers can complement, rather than compete with those Australian workers laid off because of the pandemic.
Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration, Julian Leeser MP says that given the COVID-19 pandemic has effectively closed Australia’s borders and stopped the flow of working holiday makers, it is important to examine how this will impact the economy and look closely at the program to ensure it is working in Australia’s interest.
“The very clear focus at the moment must be on getting Australians back into work and how migration can support our economic recovery,” Mr Leeser said.
“We will be looking closely at the program to make sure it is supporting Australian jobs and making visa holders available to support businesses that need more people, particularly in regional communities which have relied on these workers in the past,” Mr Leeser said.
The Government has already made changes to allow Working Holiday Makers working in critical sectors – such as health care and agriculture – to stay longer with one employer and to be eligible for a further visa to continue working in these sectors.
In February, the Government also made changes to allow backpackers to better assist with the recovery and rebuilding efforts following the bushfires that devastated many rural and regional communities.
The Committee is encouraging people to contribute to the process. Submissions to the inquiry will be accepted until 24 July 2020.