National Farmers' Federation

Workforce planning and migration issues

Overseas workers play a small but important part in the Australian agricultural industry, helping farmers fill labour shortages at peak times when local labour is difficult to access. Migration programs are designed to be secondary sources of labour, with employers looking to Australian workers first, before filling gaps with overseas workers where necessary.

In 2010-11, over 450 skilled overseas workers in the agricultural, forestry and fishing industry, such as farm managers, entered Australia through the temporary 457 visa program, and in the last three years, 300 skilled farmers and far managers have arrived as permanent residents through the Regional Skilled Migration Scheme (RSMS) from countries like South Africa, the Philippines and India.

To assist farmers seeking access to specialised semi-skilled overseas workers, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship has developed a fact sheet regarding labour agreements in agriculture, available to download below.

In addition to skilled workers, thousands of backpackers who arrive as working holiday makers travel around Australia following the harvest trail or other seasonal work.

The working holiday maker program assists industries like agriculture by allowing a second visa to be granted if the person worked in specific work in regional Australia.

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