Media statement; 25 June 2020
In the light of recent announcements about international students being considered for re-entry to Australia, the Backpacker & Youth Tourism Advisory Panel (BYTAP) – Australia’s peak advocacy group for the sector – is calling for Working Holiday Makers to be considered under a similar scheme, due to looming shortages of these young people in key sectors such as agriculture and childcare.
Each year, around 200,000 Working Holiday Makers arrive or extend their visas in Australia, under reciprocal cultural exchange schemes with 42 countries. Working Holiday Makers can undertake temporary work, which funds their travels across regional Australia, with each one spending over $10,000 per trip, cumulatively generating over $2bn each year for the visitor economy (source: Tourism Australia – www.tourism.australia.com/content/dam/assets/document/1/7/4/v/m/2012530.pdf )
There were approximately 140,000 Working Holiday Makers in Australia at the beginning of 2020, however with the coronavirus crisis causing closure of Australia’s borders in March 2020, around one third of those have since left. The number of Working Holiday Makers remaining has now dropped to below 100,000 and is continuing to decline at a rate of around 10,000 per month (source – Weekly Times www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/agribusiness/horticulture/backpacker-numbers-plummet-in-wake-of-covid19/news-story/bb06a8e191f81772e3c42f0143852f62 )
BYTAP spokesperson, Wendi Aylward, said: “Across Australia there is currently a shortage of Working Holiday Makers, which will only worsen and have a significant impact on the horticultural sector. If farmers cannot source enough temporary Working Holiday Makers to assist with agricultural work, the fruit will rot on the vine. Huge increases in the cost of fresh produce will also be a likely result.”
Also looming is a shortage of au pairs – of concern particularly for regional families, who are unable to source alternative childcare easily. A recent petition on this gathered over 1,000 signatures, with many parents working in critical sectors dependent on au pairs –
Aylward said: “Due to shortage of au pairs – who come to Australia under the Working Holiday Maker Scheme – many parents are now forced to choose between working or staying at home to care for young children.”
BYTAP is putting a proposal to the Federal Government, for consideration regarding re-entry of Working Holiday Makers from key countries, in accordance with all health regulations, including mandatory quarantine under a ‘secure corridor model (similar to the scheme proposed by universities for international students).
Aylward said: “Given that many Working Holiday Makers currently in Australia will be returning home over the next few months to take up studies at the start of the Northern Hemisphere academic year, urgent action is now required to enable support of key impacted sectors, particularly in regional Australia.”
For more information, or to request interviews with members of BYTAP, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or message us via our contact form.