Melbourne: Australia plans to expand the ‘Working Holiday Maker’ visa programme to over a dozen countries, including India, to recruit workers for regional areas where it is facing labour shortage particularly on farms, immigration minister David Coleman said. The Australian government’s ‘Working Holiday Maker Programme’, which includes the ‘Working Holiday Visa’ and the ‘Work and Holiday Visa’, is a cultural exchange programme which enables young travellers to have an extended holiday and earn money through short term employment.
The Australian government is in discussions to extend the scheme to include backpackers from 13 countries to find workers wanted by regional businesses to work on farms. Apart from India, other nations which were being targeted by Australia to expand the work and holiday visa were from Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Switzerland, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Andorra, Monaco and Mongolia.
Coleman said the government was working on expanding work and holiday visa conditions in an effort to recruit workers to regional areas, according to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Under the current programme that allowed backpackers to work while they stay was witnessing a decline thus creating workers shortage issue in regional parts of the country. About 150,000 people were in Australia on a working holiday visa in March, but the programme has shrunk over the past five years.
Coleman said the changes were designed to resolve labour shortages in regional areas, particularly on farms.“We know that working holidaymakers travel further into regional areas than most other international visitors,” he said, adding “They also spend substantial amounts, helping to boost regional economies.”
Changes to the backpacker visa have been welcomed by farmers but have concerned some academics. Currently, Australia offers two types of Work and Holiday programme visa under Subclass 417 and subclass 462 with Indian passport holders not eligible for both the categories.