Possible changes in foreign worker visas to boost Australian agricultural sector

Mar 22, 2020

The federal government is considering extending visas for seasonal foreign workers to counter the impending labor shortage in the Australian agricultural industry. It is feared that the measures to close the borders introduced by the Government to stop the spread of the coronavirus, will have an adverse effect on the sector.

The Australian Business Council and the National Federation of Farmers have expressed concern about the number of foreign workers who will not be able to enter the country after the travel ban.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the government is considering changes to the visas for workers already in Australia, to help farmers and protect food supplies.

Speaking to ABC, Littleproud explained that he is working with Immigration Minister Alan Tudge to evaluate some "minor adjustments" to Working Holiday visas for backpackers, and for seasonal foreign workers in the agricultural sector.

According to government figures, there are more than 140,000 backpackers in Australia and more than 7,000 seasonal workers hailing from the Pacific Islands, who help fill in the gaps in the local job market.

To assist the agricultural industry, the National Federation of Farmers is working with the government to evaluate the possibility of extending visas and also removing barriers that prevent seasonal workers from freely changing employers.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already removed rules restricting the number of hours that international students can work, but the measures only apply to international nursing students employed in elder care, and to students working in Coles and Woolworths, Australia's largest supermarkets that are currently in need of additional staff due to the tidal wave of shopping.

With these new measures, international students who are in demand will have the opportunity to increase their income by being able to work in excess of 20 hours per week.


There are calls to extend working visas to those seasonal workers already in Australia.
There are calls to extend working visas to those seasonal workers already in Australia.

But for foreigners outside this category, the rule of working no more than 20 hours per week still applies.

This means that there are no changes in the visas of students working in the tourism and hospitality sector where the loss of jobs due to government measures has been significant.

International student Ruth Ríos, who arrived in Melbourne from Colombia in 2017, is among the most affected group of students. 

Ruth spoke to SBS Spanish about how she ended up losing her source of income a few weeks ago.


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The post about “Possible changes in foreign worker visas to boost Australian agricultural sector" first appeared on the SBS Spanish website.

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