Read BYTAP’s submission and follow the Review here: https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/reports-and-publications/reviews-and-inquiries/departmental-reviews/migration-system-for-australias-future

To: Dr Martin Parkinson AC PSM; Dr Joanna Howe, Mr John Azarias

I write to you on behalf of the Backpacker & Youth Tourism Advisory Panel (BYTAP) – the peak industry body representing the youth tourism sector.

BYTAP advocates that Working Holiday Makers “WHMs” (visa subclass holders 417 and 462) are a vital part of Australia’s temporary migration program, and that potential reforms to policy settings would maximise the benefits of the program.

In a normal year, over 150,000 WHMs from nearly 50 countries would be in Australia on this reciprocal cultural exchange program. Currently there are around 90,000 in-country, as the tourism industry continues to feel the after-effects of the pandemic disruption. It is vital therefore to plan for the short, medium and long term to revive this segment of the youth tourism sector, which was worth $3.2 billion to the Australian economy each year pre-pandemic (source: Tourism Australia)[1]

WHM’s dispersal is especially critical in filling casual temporary jobs in tourism & hospitality in regional areas, supporting these industries to be able to operate at full capacity. They also assist with other types of regional work where there is high seasonal demand, including agriculture and au-pairing.

With regards to Working Holiday Makers we note the following relating to the Terms of Reference of the Review:

Terms of Reference BYTAP position
 

·     Enrich the economy, with a focus on productivity growth

·     Complement Australia’s education and training systems and the skills of Australians

·     Foster enhanced integration (including people, trade and supply chain links) with our international friends and partners

 

·       Government to consider increasing the age limit to 35 for all participating countries on the Working Holiday Maker 462 and 417 visa subclasses (currently only some countries have this expanded limit from age 30)

·       Amend policy settings to offer former Working Holiday Makers who have returned to their home countries, and who still meet the age criteria, the ability to apply for a second visa

·       Remove visa caps on countries identified as ‘low risk’ – see current status of visa caps here (some as low as 100 and quickly exhausted each year) – https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/what-we-do/whm-program/status-of-country-caps

·       Remove the English language and tertiary level, and letter of support requirements from countries where it applies for the 462 Working Holiday Maker visa (as these are onerous imposts that are not evenly applied to all countries in the program and are not requirements under the 417 Working Holiday visa). Note – the ethos of the WHM visa is cultural exchange, and language is an important element of culture.  Considerable research has demonstrated that many WHMs state that “to improve my English skills” is a major reason to come to Australia.  So, by imposing English language requirements, by default a large proportion of the potential market is being restricted. It is also not a reciprocal requirement for Australians travelling overseas on a WHM visa.

·       Fast-track agreements with new countries such as Mexico and the Philippines which are well established in other markets that offer similar visa arrangements

·       Fast-track the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) visa changes with the UK (as this will incorporate positive changes to Working Holiday Maker visas for Britons – including an increase in the age limit to 35, and the offering of an initial three-year visa with no requirement for any specified work in any particular area to be undertaken to obtain this duration).

·       Consideration to permit Tourist visa holders to transfer to a 462 or 417 visa onshore. Currently applicants must leave Australia in order to apply.

 

BYTAP is aligned with the Federal Government’s Thrive 2030 Strategy – The Re-Imagined Visitor Economy – which has many recommendations regarding harnessing the opportunity that Working Holiday Makers present www.austrade.gov.au/news/publications/thrive-2030-strategy

We particularly note that in the Thrive 2030 Strategy Action Plan – Phase 1: Recovery 2022-2024 under Priority 3 – Grow a secure and resilient workforce there are several action items listed regarding Working Holiday Makers.

We also support the recommendations in the Reimagining the Visitor Economy – Expert Panel Report www.austrade.gov.au/news/publications/reimagining-the-visitor-economy-expert-panel-report

Specifically, under ‘A Modern Workforce’ there is the recommendation to reform the Working Holiday Maker scheme to increase the pool of workers for the visitor economy:

  • This should include increasing age limits to 35 for all participating countries (on a non-reciprocal basis if need be)
  • Fast-tracking agreements with new countries.

We also support the development of the Employment White Paper arising from the Jobs & Skills Summit – BYTAP’s position on that can be read here: https://bytap.org/bytap-advocacy-ahead-of-jobs-skills-summit/#respond

Finally, we refer you to the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Migration’s Review into the Working Holiday Maker Program published in November 2020, which BYTAP supports – see https://bytap.org/bytap-supports-the-final-report-for-the-review-into-the-working-holiday-maker-program/

In conclusion, we request that Working Holiday Makers be afforded due consideration in the Strategy arising from this Review.  I would be happy to elaborate further on the issues as required in person or by video conference as part of the review process.

Yours sincerely,

WENDI AYLWARD

CHAIRPERSON, BYTAP

[1] www.tourism.australia.com/content/dam/digital/corporate/documents/ta-whm-infographic-october-2021.pdf

https://www.tourism.australia.com/en/insights/industry-sectors/youth.html