Tourism and agriculture benefit from influx of holiday workers
IT COULD be a scene anywhere in Asia. It’s a sea of workers bent over hacking vegetables from the stalk. Not one of them is Australian but the farm is just minutes from Bundaberg, where unemployment is running at 8 per cent.
Without them the horticulture industry would grind to a halt.
“They are a huge part of farming,” Growcom chief executive Alex Livingstone said.
“The backpackers may work for a couple of weeks or months.
“It’s a very symbiotic relationship with tourism. We provide employment and the backpackers have to stay somewhere, usually hostels in town.
“There could be tens of thousands doing this.”
Mr Livingstone said there were some Australians who took up the jobs, but most vacancies were filled by backpackers.
Childers, Bundaberg and Gayndah are getting an influx now as winter vegetables and citrus picking jobs become available.
He said vegetable farms were significant employers and vital to communities.
According to statistics the Australian farm workers are increasingly Korean or Taiwanese. Pacific Islanders are also becoming a common sight under a new employment scheme and were a welcome and hard-working addition to rural life.
Europeans and the Irish were common following the global financial crisis, but now Asians are taking up the harvest trail, which provides work around Australia all year. The Irish also filled a lot of jobs in Queensland construction industry.
The number of Chinese workers has also increased quickly over the past year while Taiwanese numbers more than doubled.
And while 457 visas grabbed all the controversy, there were 112,000 working holiday visas issued last year, slightly more than the 457s.
“You don’t have much from the Americans but certainly the UK, Ireland, Scandinavian, Italian and especially Korean,” Mr Livingstone said.