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International Migration and Agricultural Labour in Australia -- Graeme Hugo

INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION AND AGRICULTURAL LABOUR IN AUSTRALIA

Graeme Hugo

Professor of Geography and

Director of the National Key Centre

for Social Applications of GIS

Adelaide University

Adelaide SA 5005

Paper prepared for Changing Face Workshop, Imperial Valley, California, January 16-18, 2001


INTRODUCTION..................................................................................................................................................... 1

HISTORICAL INVOLVEMENT OF IMMIGRANTS IN RURAL LABOUR................................................. 1

CONTEMPORARY HARVEST LABOUR SHORTAGES............................................................................... 6

IMMIGRATION AND HARVEST LABOUR.................................................................................................... 14

THE WORKING HOLIDAY MAKER (WHM) PROGRAM........................................................................... 18

OTHER INVOLVEMENT OF INTERNATIONAL MIGRANTS IN HARVEST LABOUR IN AUSTRALIA 27

THE FUTURE.......................................................................................................................................................... 33

CONCLUSION....................................................................................................................................................... 36

REFERENCES........................................................................................................................................................ 38

INTRODUCTION
With some 23.3 percent of its population born overseas and 19.2 percent Australia-born people with at least one parent born overseas, Australia has a greater proportion of its population made up of migrants than any of the OECD nations. Although immigrants make up a disproportionately small percentage of the agricultural workforce increasing attention is being drawn in Australia to the role of international migration in meeting the labour needs of harvesting fruit and vegetables. It is this issue which the present paper addresses. Australian post-war immigration has been dominated by permanent settlement and there has been bipartisan government as well as general public support for an immigration program based purely on new settlers and the nation has consistently eschewed guest worker programs. However, in recent years a number of visa categories have been introduced in Australia which allow selected non-permanent immigrants to work but the government has resisted pressure from the horticultural industry to bring in harvest workers on a temporary visa. However, harvest labour is being provided through other visa categories of non-permanent migration, especially the Working Holiday Makers Program.

The paper begins with a brief historical account of the involvement of immigrants in rural labour in Australia. It then moves to a consideration of the paradox of the existence of a shortage of labour in some Australian rural industries in a context of high national unemployment. We then move to a consideration of the current and likely future of the involvement of temporary immigrants entering Australia under the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) Program in harvest labour. This is followed by a consideration of other migrants involved in the industry. Finally some policy issues relating to harvest labour and immigration are discussed and some comments are made about the future outlook.

HISTORICAL INVOLVEMENT OF IMMIGRANTS IN RURAL LABOUR
The 1996 Australian Census of Population and Housing indicated that the overseas-born are significantly less involved in agriculture than the Australia-born and Table 1 shows that this is especially the case for recently arrived immigrants. This was not always the case, however. In the pre-war period immigration to Australia was dominated by settlers from the United Kingdom and Ireland. Among the relatively small numbers from non-English speaking countries the majority lived outside the large metropolitan centres. It was noticeable, however, that these

Table 1: Australia: Industry of the Population by Birthplace and Period of Residence, Percentage Distribution, 1996

Source: ABS 1996 Census One Percent Sample File


Australia-born
Overseas-born
Arrivals < 5 years

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing
5.1
2.1
1.7

Mining
1.2
1.1
1.3

Manufacturing
11.5
18.4
19.5

Electricity, Gas, Water
0.8
0.6
0.5

Construction
6.7
6.7
5.3

Wholesale Trade
6.0
6.2
6.4

Retail Trade
14.6
12.0
10.8

Accommodation, Cafes, Restaurants
4.6
5.1
7.9

Transport, Storage
4.4
4.5
3.9

Communication
2.0
2.1
1.3

Finance, Insurance
4.2
3.7
4.4

Property, Business
9.7
11.5
15.0

Government Administration, Defence
5.3
4.2
2.0

Education
7.6
6.3
6.0

Health, Community Service
10.1
10.6
9.1

Cultural, Recreation Service
2.5
1.9
2.3

Personal, Other Service
3.7
3.2
2.6


immigrants settled in concentrations in rural areas where the primary industry was not the mainstream dry farming and pastoral areas in which Anglo-Saxons dominated. Table 2 shows that among the main Southern European groups more than half lived outside of the nation’s capital cities. Moreover, Table 3 indicates that among employed Southern Europeans over half in the pre-war period worked as farmers or agricultural workers. As a result, Southern European settlement in Australia was concentrated in irrigated areas such as the Murray River System, cane growing, fruit and vegetable growing, market gardening areas around the major cities and vine growing areas. Figure 1 depicts the pattern of pre-war Southern European settlements. These settlements formed the anchors for major expansion of numbers

Table 2: Distribution of Southern Europeans in Australia, 1947

Source: Price 1979, p. 158

Grouping
Migratory
Rural
Provincial
Metropolitan
Inner City and Suburbs
Inner City

Italians
0.2
51.6
5.2
43.0
23.2
7.4

Greeks
0.5
24.3
18.2
57.0
43.9
28.5

Maltese
1.2
31.4
5.4
62.0
35.4
26.7

Yugoslavs
0.3
54.5
7.2
38.0
16.4
8.6

Total
0.3
44.2
8.5
47.0
28.1
13.8


Table 3: Occupations of Southern European Settlers in Australia, 1904-46*

Source: Price 1979, p. 145


Southern Europeans
Australians

Occupations
Total

1904-46


1904-29


1930-46
Males in workforce 1947

Farmers:

Sugar, fruit, market-gardens, other intensive
17.9
..
..
..

Other
3.4
..
..
..

Total
21.3
16.3
25.2
11.0

Agricultural Labourers
11.0
10.0
11.8
5.0

Total Agriculture
32.3
26.3
37.0
16.0

Catering:

Restaurants, fruit-shops, etc.
20.9
24.3
18.2
1.5

Assistants (waiters, cooks, etc.)
8.3
8.9
7.8
2.5

Total Catering
29.2
33.2
26.0
4.0

Professions and Business
1.5
1.9
1.2
4.1

Craftsmen
3.5
2.4
4.5
20.1

Miners
7.3
9.1
5.9
2.0

Timber-workers
5.0
5.2
4.8
1.0

Seamen
0.8
0.8
0.8
0.4

Fishermen
2.0
2.2
1.8
0.4

Labourers and Operatives
15.9
17.3
14.8
27.2

Other
2.5
1.6
3.2
24.8

Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

Total No.
22,261
9,807
12,454
2,479,269


* Based on naturalisation records and so excluding those not qualified for naturalisation. The figures therefore represent those persons resident in Australia for some years – the average is just under 12 – so that we are dealing with the settler element rather than with temporary immigrants. Consequently these statistics cannot be compared with census statistics of occupations by European birthplace, since census statistics combine permanent and temporary immigrants.

with the greatly increased Southern European immigration of the 1950s and 1960s.[1] This map is important because the intensive agricultural production areas depicted as areas of initial Southern European settlement are precisely the areas which are currently experiencing significant harvest labour shortages. Unlike other types of agricultural areas in Australia, they have a long history of multiculturalism and of involvement of immigrants of non-Anglo-Saxon origins. This fact has been used by proponents of bringing in temporary harvest labour to Australia from Asia and the Pacific. An example is the Shepparton region of Victoria where 45 percent of the population are of non-English speaking background while in the Shepparton East fruit growing area it is 80 percent (Pullar et al. 1995, p. 15). The other major non-English speaking European group in pre-war Australia were the Germans and the majority of these also settled in non-metropolitan areas (Borrie 1954). In the last three decades of the nineteenth century there was significant immigration of Chinese men predominantly to the gold fields but many moved into market gardening (Choi 1975). The introduction of the White Australia policy in the early years of the twentieth century saw this migration flow stopped.

Figure 1: Settlement of Southern Europeans

Source:


The post-war period saw massive changes in Australian immigration with a massive increase in scale and a diversification of the migrant intake away from the Anglo-Saxon dominance of the pre-war period. In the early post-war years there was substantial immigration into non-metropolitan areas although the bulk of settlement was in the rapidly expanding major cities. There was considerable pressure for Australia to increase immigration immediately after World War II because of labour shortages in several sectors of the economy including the rural sector. The first major influx of non-Anglo-Saxon groups were displaced persons from Eastern Europe and they had to work for two years in a government designated job – many of them in non-metropolitan areas to meet rural labour shortages (Kunz 1988). However, from the late 1950s onward the bulk of immigrant settlement has been in the nation’s capital cities. By 1996, 80.2 percent of the overseas-born lived in the nation’s major cities compared with 57.7 percent of the Australia-born.

CONTEMPORARY HARVEST LABOUR SHORTAGES
Australia, like most OECD nations, has experienced sustained high levels of unemployment over recent years as Figure 2 indicates. Paradoxically in this apparently labour-surplus situation here are significant labour and skills shortages in the growth areas of agriculture (Calver 2000). The particular shortages are felt most strongly in the horticultural sector which is having increasing difficulty attracting sufficient labour to properly harvest their crops (National Harvest Trail Working Group 2000). Calver (2000) has reported that this labour shortage represents a significant constraint on the expansion of the industry which grew by 142 percent over the decade to 2000 and the 2000 value of production at the farm gate is A$5.1 billion.


Figure 2: Australia: Unemployment Rate, November 1990-2000

Source: ABS 2000

It is difficult, however, to estimate the size of the seasonal labour demand in harvesting in Australian agriculture. An approximation has been made by the federal Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business (DEWRSB 1999, p. 14) that there were the equivalent of between 55,000 and 65,000 full time jobs available in harvest areas across Australia. However, the numbers of workers needed to fill these jobs will be several times this depending on the mobility of harvest labour. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Labour Force estimates indicate that 140,000 agricultural and horticultural workers are employed in Australia throughout the year. However, this excludes a number of important groups of workers (National Harvest Trail Working Group 2000, p. 4)…

· WHMs and overseas students;

· immigrants who do not have working rights in Australia;

· those working in the black economy;

· people receiving income support who do not wish to declare their earnings; and

· itinerant workers providing fictitious identities.

The reasons for the labour shortage in harvesting have recently been canvassed by a Working Group set up by the national government (National Harvest Trail Working Group 2000). They include…

· the temporary nature of the work;

· the hard physical work involved;

· low wages;

· poor accommodation for harvest workers;

· the remoteness of many of the locations of the work;

· lack of transport for pickers; and

· poor conditions of working.

The report (p. 5) also indicates that the demand for harvest labour in the horticultural industry will not only remain high but increase as a result of…

· farmers moving from less labour intensive activities (e.g. sugar cane and beef) into more labour intensive crops such as fruit, vegetables and cotton;

· increasing areas are being put under cultivation of labour intensive crops e.g. large companies are putting extensive areas under stone fruit trees in the Goulburn Valley;

· export markets for fresh fruit and vegetables are expanding e.g. in the fresh stone fruit industry 14 percent of production in 2000 was exported and this is expected to increase up to between 20 and 25 percent in the next five years. The growth of the rapidly expanding Asian market is of particular significance;

· there is increasing emphasis on quality (especially for export markets) which requires more careful and consequently slower picking;

· new horticultural crops have been introduced (e.g. olives, rambutans, Chinese cabbage and walnuts); and

· new varieties of traditional crops have been introduced (e.g. nashi pears, stella cherries, white flesh peaches, amber jewel plums, pink lady apples).

There has been difficulty experienced in the industry to access local labour for the harvest industry. In particular, there have been attempts to attract existing unemployed persons into harvest labour. This is due to the remoteness of many horticultural areas from Australia’s major cities. In Australia there is a national unemployment benefits scheme so that unemployed city based people do not seem to be attracted by temporary, low paid manual jobs in areas distant from home and where accommodation is a problem. Moreover, many growers have indicated that many unemployed people complain that the work is too hard and that they often are not able to cope with the hard physical nature of the work. A survey of unemployment benefit recipients found that only 14 percent of respondents ‘said that they would not consider picking, pruning or packing because it was too physically difficult. This did not differ significantly between men and women, or between metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas’. The survey, however, also found that negative perceptions of the harvest work existed among unemployment benefit recipients because of the lack of a career path, negative attitudes to pickers in harvest communities, variable pay rates, family commitments in metropolitan areas and high levels of illegal processes associated with harvest work (National Harvest Trail Working Group 2000, p. 51). There is some resentment among growers that they should be used in a ‘social security’ role to mop up unemployment but there is some evidence of a lack of information among the unemployed regarding the opportunities available in harvest work. At one stage the national government required unemployment benefit recipients to take any work available so that growers were inundated with people who would work for half a day then quit and requalify for unemployment benefits.

The mid 1990s saw a particular shortage of labour for the harvest in the Goulburn Valley fruit-growing region of Victoria (Figure 3) and this led to the production of a study of harvest labour strategies for the region (Pullar et al. 1995). At that time the region produced 200-220,000 tonnes of deciduous fruit requiring harvesting in January-March each year and a total workforce of around 8,000 persons. Figure 4 shows the growth in use of the Harvest Labour Office (HLO) operated by the federal government over the 1992-1995 period.[2] However, it also shows the inability to fill all of the positions notified.

Figure 3: Location of Main Harvest Areas

Source: National Harvest Trail Working Group 2000


One of the interesting aspects of the report was the analysis of the degree of involvement of local unemployed people in the harvest. The review found (p. 11) that between January and March 1995, 1,686 locally registered unemployment benefit recipients had been employed in the harvest compared with a total of 3,747 unemployed local people receiving allowances who declared some form of casual

Figure 4: Harvest Labour Office, Vacancies and Positions Filled

Source: Pullar et al. 1995


earnings during the period. While there are a wide range of social security benefits[3] paid to Australians[4] most attention is focussed on unemployment benefit recipients as possible sources of harvest labour since many of the other recipients are old or disabled in some way which would be likely to preclude them from involvement in the hard physical work of harvest labour. At that stage an unemployed person could earn $60 per fortnight without affecting their benefits. Beyond this the benefit was reduced to 50 cents in the dollar, then 70 cents in the dollar until the benefit reaches nil. The analysis by Pullar et al. (1995, pp. 14-15) found that in early 1995 the impact of this policy was that the allowance income-asset test for unemployment benefits produced a powerful disincentive to pick more than 10 bins of fruit and less than 22 bins per fortnight as no extra income was received for these efforts. A survey made in the Riverland fruit-growing area in 1995 (Riverland Horticultural Council 1995, p. 3) found that… ‘a novice to the industry would have great difficulty earning better than the ‘benefits’ from the social security system working as a fruit picker due to a lack of skills and experience’. It has also been reported that case managers from the national unemployment agency find it ‘difficult to justify moving unemployed people away from their family support mechanisms for short periods of employment in horticultural districts, where there may be limited accommodation and transport (Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Joint Standing Committee on Migration 1997, p. 41).

In some cases (e.g. vines) the peak labour demand coincides with the university summer break so pickers have been recruited from universities, especially to areas close to the major cities. The Report of the National Harvest Trail Working Group (2000) has identified four sample harvest trails depicted in Figures 5, 6, 7 and 8 which people can take over 12 months to access regular harvesting work and in the process see large parts of the nation. This trail was to be advertised widely and details made available in book form and on the internet. This would provide information on…

· areas where seasonal work is available;

· the time of year and types of crop;

· description of what the work entails, employment conditions, training requirements and pay rates;

· accommodation in harvest areas;

· transport to and in harvest areas; and

· details of a range of harvest trails.

The target groups to be given this information about the Harvest Trail concept were – schools, universities, Centrelink (the national government agency charged with assisting people in gaining employment and with payment of unemployment and a range of other benefits), employment agencies, retirees magazines, four wheel drive magazines, backpacker magazines and in locations where unemployed people and students, particularly young people, meet.

Figure 5: Trail 1: Chasing the Sun Around Australia – Up and Over – From SA to Queensland, NT and WA and Back

Source: National Harvest Trail Working Group 2000


The shortage of labour in harvesting remains a significant issue in Australia. In 2000 the Queensland Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (QF and VGA) has estimated that up to 10 percent of the gross value of production of its members is lost (approximately A$900 million) because of labour shortages. That is because the fruit and vegetables are not picked at all or the quality of the product is reduced because of insufficient skilled pickers (Calver 2000, p. 1). The following quotation from an Australian newspaper (Sydney Morning Herald March 10 1999) reflects the growing lack of harvest labour…

Figure 6: Trail 2: Chasing the Sun – From Tasmania to Queensland and Back

Source: National Harvest Trail Working Group 2000


Tomato crops were left rotting on the ground. Wine grapes are being left on the vine, well past their quality use by date…immigration policy is not addressing the unskilled labour shortage in rural Australia.

Several regions growing fruit and vegetables have agents to recruit labour and some regional associations have developed their own training videos and programs. Until recently, however, the actions taken about labour shortage have not been national but by regional associations and groupings. Nevertheless, despite initiatives to recruit local labour and while sufficient harvest labour is being recruited for some areas, especially areas close to large cities, shortages of harvest labour remain in many fruit and vegetable growing areas. This has focussed attention on the possible role of immigrant labour in the harvest.

Figure 7: Trail 3: Adelaide to Cairns by Bus

Source: National Harvest Trail Working Group 2000


IMMIGRATION AND HARVEST LABOUR
Very few recent immigrant settlers are attracted to work in harvest labour. Figure 9 shows recent trends in the various categories of settlement migration to Australia. The selection of immigrants has placed a heavy emphasis on the recruitment of settlers with skills and high levels of education so there are few candidates for harvest labour among them. Moreover, although the family migrants are less skilled they are usually sponsored by family members based in the metropolitan areas and they tend to settle close to them to assist their adjustment to life in Australia. New Zealanders can move to Australia freely as part of a trans-Tasman agreement but they also are relatively highly skilled and metropolitan based.

Figure 8: Trail 4: Standing Straight – Harvesting for People Who Don’t Like to Bend

Source: National Harvest Trail Working Group 2000


Post-war Australia has been one of the world’s most significant immigration nations but the overwhelmingly dominant paradigm of immigration has been permanent settlement. While many OECD nations embraced guest worker schemes Australia steadfastly refused to bring in temporary immigrants to meet labour shortages. It was not until the second half of the 1990s that there was some modification of this attitude in recognition of the growing forces of globalisation and the extension of labour markets across national boundaries. Accordingly the government introduced the temporary business visa in 1996 designed to attract highly skilled or entrepreneurial groups to Australia to work on a non-permanent basis. This is the main non-permanent visa category which allowed people to work in Australia and Figure 10 shows that significant numbers have entered Australia under this category in the few years of its operation.

Figure 9: Australia: Trends in Intake of Different Types of Settlers, 1977-2000

Source: DIMA Immigration Update and Australian Immigration Consolidated Statistics, various issues

Figure 10: Non-Permanent Migration to Australia of Persons with the Right to Work by Category, 1986-2000

Source: DIMA Population Flows: Immigration Aspects, various issues

A second category of non-permanent visa in which arrivals can work is the case of students from overseas wishing to study in Australia. Overseas students can work up to 20 hours during teaching periods and full time during breaks. The third category are Working Holiday Makers who are discussed in detail in the next section. From the perspective of harvest labour the Temporary Business Visa category does not provide workers since the emphasis is on highly skilled and managerial groups, many who come to a specific job in Australia. Table 4 shows the occupations of this visa category and indicates that they come from the high income and high level sectors. Students do supply some harvest labour but they are restricted by being located mainly in major cities and being available to work for restricted weeks. Nevertheless, they are a small element in harvest labour. It is the third category of Working Holiday Makers (WHM) which have been the main contributor of harvest workers.

Table 4: Australia: Temporary Entrants to Australia with the Right to Work by Occupation, 1999-2000

Source: Unpublished data supplied by DIMA


Working Holiday

Makers
Temporary Business Entrants

Occupation
Number
Percent
Number
Percent

Managers /Admin
2,214
8.3
17,100
37.7

Professionals
7,652
28.8
16,270
35.8

Associate Professionals
2,548
9.6
6,788
15.0

Tradespersons
3,024
11.4
1,020
2.2

Advanced Clerical & Service
1,214
4.6
458
1.0

Intermediate Clerical & Service
6,677
25.1
2,310
5.1

Intermediate Product & Transport
536
2.0
150
0.3

Elementary Clerical, Sales, Service
2,106
7.9
1,038
2.3

Labourers
607
2.3
262
0.6

Total Workforce
26,578
100.0
45,394
100.0

Not in Workforce
15,182

18,326


Not in Employment
12,598

350


Not Stated
25,546

29,872


Total
79,904

93,942

THE WORKING HOLIDAY MAKER (WHM) PROGRAM
The main involvement of international migrants in the harvest industry in Australia is through the Working Holiday Maker Program. This program is ‘targeted at young people who wish to have an extended holiday in Australia and undertake incidental work in order to supplement their funds and have closer contact with the community. It also provides a reciprocal basis upon which young Australians can have working holidays overseas’ (Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Joint Standing Committee on Migration 1997, p. 7). The program commenced in 1975 at the same time as a universal visa system was introduced. At this time a reciprocal arrangement was concluded with the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland and these were extended to Japan (1980), Netherlands (1981), Republic of Korea (1995), Malta (1996) and Germany (2000). Although there are specific arrangements with these countries, the Australian scheme was applied globally and applicants from other countries are considered where there might be a benefit both to the applicant and Australia (DIMA 2000a). After July 2000, however, the program was restricted only to the arrangement of countries. Before that time 2-3 percent of the WHM arrivals were not from arrangement countries.[5] At the time of writing the government of Australia was seeking to substantially extend the program and negotiations were under way with 18 other countries to establish a reciprocal relationship. Negotiations were very advanced with six countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Italy and France) who are expected to enter the program in 2001.[6] These nations are all classified by DIMA as ‘low risk’ nations, i.e. that they are unlikely to produce major problems with WHMs overstaying their visas in Australia.

The criteria which must be fulfilled in order to obtain a WHM visa are as follows. The applicant must (DIMA 2000a and b)…

· be a national of one of the arrangement countries;

· be aged between 18 and 25 (and in special circumstances from arrangement countries, 26 to 30), single or married without children;

· their main reason for coming to Australia is to holiday, and that any work that they do is to support themselves while they holiday;

· they have a good chance of finding temporary work to supplement their holiday funds;

· they will not undertake any studies in Australia than an English language course (after July they are permitted to study or train for up to three months);

· they have a return ticket or sufficient funds for a return fare and the first part of their stay;

· they intend to leave Australia at the end of their authorised stay; and

· they can stay in Australia for up to one year.

The WHM visa holders are allowed to do any kind of work of a temporary or casual nature. They may not work for longer than three months[7] full-time with any one employer and they are to be paid according to Australian award rates and wages.

The trend in the growth of the numbers of WHM coming to Australia is depicted in Table 5. In 1983-84 the number of WHM visas was 5,817. This more than doubled to 12,303 two years later, more than doubled again in the following two years to 30,476 in 1987-88 and peaked at 45,136 in 1988-89. Thereafter it fell to 25,557 in 1992-93 but each subsequent year has continued to grow almost trebling in the 1990s to reach 74,454 in 1999-2000. Moreover, the first five months of 2000-2001 saw an increase to 36,706 compared with 36,046 a year earlier. There have

Table 5: Australia: Numbers of Working Holiday Visas Granted, 1983-2000

Source: DIMA unpublished data

Year
Number of Visas
Year
Number of Visas

1983-84
5,817
1992-93
25,557

1984-85
9,991
1993-94
29,525

1985-86
12,303
1994-95
35,391

1986-87
20,321
1995-96
40,273

1987-88
30,476
1996-97
50,000

1988-89
45,136
1997-98
55,620

1989-90
41,538
1998-99
65,000

1990-91
39,923
1999-2000
74,454

1991-92
25,873


been government inquiries into the WHM program published in 1991 (National Population Council) and 1997 (Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Joint Standing Committee on Migration) and at the time of writing a survey was in the field surveying Working Holiday Maker visa holders about to return to their home country concerning their experience in Australia.[8] The countries of origin of WHM in Australia are overwhelmingly European. The United Kingdom is the dominant origin of WHM although this dominance has been reduced from two-thirds to around one half between 1983-84 and the present as Table 6 indicates. It is interesting that the Irish have increased in significance in the WHM inflow. The only non-European countries involved are Japan and Korea who accounted for 11.4 and 1.6 percent respectively of the WHM in 1999-2000.

Table 6: Origin Countries of Working Holiday Makers Coming to Australia

Source: DIMA

Country of
1983-84
1993-94
1995-96
1999-2000

Origin
No.
%
No.
%
No.
%
No.
%

United Kingdom
3,805
65.4
17,085
57.7
20,526
51.0
38,909
52.1

Ireland
221
3.8
2,381
8.0
4,316
10.7
13,250
17.8

Canada
700
12.0
2,506
8.5
3,420
8.5
5,446
7.3

Japan
851
14.6
5,256
17.8
5,590
13.9
8,512
11.4

Netherlands
162
2.8
1,635
5.5
2,616
6.5
4,818
6.5

Korea
na
-
na
-
603
1.5
1,206
1.6

Germany
na
-
na
-
na
-
234
0.3

Malta
na
-
na
-
na
-
59
0.1

Other
78
1.3
732
2.5
3,202
8.0
2,033
2.7

Total
5,817
100.0
29,595
100.0
40,273
100.0
74,647
100.0


Although the program is a reciprocal one, in general the outflow of young Australians is not commensurate with the inflow of WHM. Table 7 shows the level of two-way flows in 1998 and 1999. It is difficult to assemble data on the Australians moving to the arrangement countries since this is not indicated on the departure card completed when leaving Australia. Information needs to be sought separately from each of the arrangement countries. The table shows that in each of the countries with which there are reciprocal relationships there are more WHMs that come to Australia than move in the opposite direction. Indeed Table 7 indicates that there are almost three WHMs coming into Australia for those moving in the opposite direction.

Table 7: Working Holiday Maker Scheme Reciprocal Arrangements, 1998-99

Source: DIMA


1998
1999

Country
Immigrants
Emigrants
Difference
Immigrants
Emigrants
Difference

Canada
4,408
3,800
+608
5,446
4,100
+1,346

Germany
34
na
-
234
na
-

Ireland
11,012
895
+10,177
13,249
1,370
+11,879

Japan
8,407
1,119
+7,288
8,512
1,118
+7,394

Korea
1,805
22
+1,783
1,205
na
-

Malta
35
26
+9
59
39
+20

United Kingdom
34,106
17,000
+17,100
38,907
19,600
+19,307

Netherlands
4,217
166
+4,051
4,818
188
+4,630

Total

72,430
26,415
+46,015


Regarding the background of WHMs it is apparent that few come from rural backgrounds or have skill and experience in the harvest industry. In a survey of WHMs in 1998-99 some three-quarters had post secondary school qualifications, more than 20 percent were paraprofessionals, professionals or managers, many intended to work in their own occupation group while in Australia, most intended to work in restaurants, hotels and catering or did not have a specific employment area in mind and only five percent had employment arranged in Australia (National Population Council 1991). Table 8 shows the results of a survey carried out in 1986 which interviewed 304 WHM just before leaving Australia and recorded both their last occupation before leaving and all occupations held while they were in Australia. This shows that in 1986 only 3 percent of the WHM interviewed had ever been involved in rural work. By the time Murphy (1995) surveyed 438 WHM he found that 42.8 percent had worked as labourers (mainly fruit pickers, store persons, kitchen hands, factory hands, cleaners and builders labourers), 25 percent were in sales and 20 percent held clerical jobs. It is clear that over the 1990s the WHM visa holders became more important in providing harvest labour in Australia.

Table 8: Survey of Working Holiday Makers: All Jobs Held While in Australia and Last Job Before Leaving, 1986 (N=309)

Source: Working Holiday Maker Study, Australian Sales Research Bureau Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1986

Occupation
All Jobs (%)
Last Job (%)

Clerical, commercial
43
29

Service
56
18

Professional/medical
16
6

Semi skilled work
16
6

Other professional
1
6

Unskilled worker
24
5

Business and commerce
12
4

Other skilled trader
4
4

Engineering and science
1
4

Skilled building and construction
2
3

Skilled metal/electrical trades
2
3

Technicians
0
1

Rural Work
3
0

Did not work
2
11


Since the introduction of the WHM program there has been concern expressed from time to time about the impact on the labour market. The ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) has been ‘particularly concerned about the scheme. Apart from the question of displacing Australian residents, the ACTU’s main concern was whether the WHM scheme impacts adversely on conditions of employment such as undermining awards, standards and minimum conditions and not encouraging employers to meet training needs’ (National Population Council 1991, p. 1). Two surveys carried out in 1986 (ASI Market Research 1986, Australian Sales Research Bureau 1986) found that WHMs at that stage did not threaten the long-term employment opportunities of Australian residents. A survey of Commonwealth Employment Service Offices (National Population Council 1991, p. 28) in the early 1990s found that WHMs were not competing with Australians seeking full-time employment and suggested they were taking jobs which Australians weren’t interested in or where there were labour market shortages. It was found, however, that in the part-time and casual labour markets they did compete to some extent with Australians, especially students and women.

The 1991 report on WHMs and their labour market impact made scant reference to WHM involvement in harvest labour but by the time of the 1997 report it is clear that the WHMs were more involved in these activities. Many of the submissions received by the Joint Standing Committee on Migration of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia underlined the increasing significance of WHMs being a flexible and reliable workforce doing the jobs that Australians are not interested in, especially in areas suffering seasonal labour shortages, especially in the horticultural and hospitality industries. The submission from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI)…

WHMs … are less averse to work in difficult physical conditions (such as fruit picking) than many Australian workers. More importantly they are not discouraged from seeking work for short engagements (a function of the seasonal nature of harvesting and much hospitality work) as they are continually moving and not seeking permanence in any job. As a result WHMs have long played an important and positive role in Australian industries, especially those in the agricultural and hospitality sector, by undertaking work that Australian workers have long been unwilling to do (Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Joint Standing Committee on Migration 1997, p. 40).

The government commission received several substantial submissions from horticultural industry representatives, a selection of which are presented below…

WHM visa holders are an increasingly important component of the horticultural industries national harvest labour strategy. Horticultural harvest periods typically involve relatively short periods of intense activity during which demand for labour outstrips local supply. In this regard there is no competition between local labour (Riverland Horticultural Council of South Australia).

Approximately 8,000 seasonal positions are available for short periods of time in the fruit industry in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley…At no time in the peak season are there enough Australians to fill the positions available. The WHMs are an important backup supply of labour and are critical to our industry being able to harvest the crop in a manner timely enough to ensure the optimum quality of the fruit (Northern Victoria Fruit Grower’s Association).

As a means to obtain labour many horticulturalists are increasingly relying on overseas labour with a working holiday visa. One large scale horticulturalist packing fresh fruit for export markets has over 60 percent of its packing staff on a working holiday visa – mostly female English travellers. The use of such workers in packing sheds throughout the region is common for both large scale and smaller horticulturalists. Horticulturalists find the staff on working holiday visas to be reliable and hard working. The above mentioned horticulturalist has found working holiday staff to be so successful that they are considering providing additional accommodation and reimbursing some travel costs, including airfares, to secure further staff of this type. Without this staff the business would not operate (Swan Hill Rural City Council).

Similar evidence was given by a specialist recruitment agency for agricultural labour in Western Australia, the Queensland Fruit and Vegetable Growers and the Riverina Area Consultative Committee. Among the points they raised included the following…

· It was noted that in the 1990s the number of Australians engaged in itinerant work following the harvest around the country began to decline and growers had turned to WHMs to fill the gap (p. 42).

· WHMs provide an enthusiastic pool of workers in remote areas… ‘Being young, unburdened by family responsibilities and often keen to see as much of Australia as possible, they are willing to travel to isolated areas of Australia for work’ (p. 42).

· Despite strategies to increase Australian involvement in harvesting through intensive advertising, recruitment campaigns and the establishment of harvest offices there remains a reliance on WHMs (p. 43).

Some of the negative effects of the WHMs in rural industry were also raised in the 1997 Report (p. 45-46)…

· Employers often pay less than award wages to WHMs putting pressure on locals to accept the same conditions.

· Some WHMs held jobs longer than they should and tie up long-term positions that could have gone to a local resident.

· WHMs tie up a lot of time at counters at the Commonwealth Employment Service.

· Where there is a ready supply of WHMs employers will not make a sufficient commitment to base level training for local residents.

· Some suggested information about harvest jobs was more readily available to WHMs than Australians.

· WHMs give growers an excuse not to improve the conditions for Australian workers.

· WHMs are less likely to complain about inferior wages and conditions than Australians.

· Non-eligible aliens can parade themselves as WHMs to get work.

The 1997 government enquiry was followed up by a further enquiry into Harvest Labour in Australia (National Harvest Trail Working Group 2000). This enquiry revewaled a considerable dependence of the horticultural industry on WHMs for harvest labour and much of the report’s thrust was to come up with alternative means of attracting labour from within Australia. However, several of the submissions pointed to how to better employ WHMs in the harvest industry. For example, the National Farmers Federation (NFF) recommended ‘coordination of legitimate WHM labour so that greater efficiencies are achieved for both growers and overseas visitors on working holidays’ (National Harvest Trail Working Group 2000, p. 81). The Australian Chamber of Fruit and Vegetable Industries recommended (p. 84)…

· an extension of the WHM scheme with age restrictions removed; and

· active promotion of the Scheme in target countries.

Several submissions stressed the need for growers to link efficiently with WHMs. From several quarters the information given was that the WHMs make up a preferred harvest work force. This relates to their youth and ability to work hard and long hours and respond to payment by the amount of fruit picked. They are more able to put up with poor residential conditions in the short-term and are perceived to work effectively with a minimum of fuss.

One major issue regarding the WHM scheme relates to whether the scheme should be capped. An annual cap on WHM was introduced in 1995 in response to increasing numbers arriving in Australia and concerns about impact on the labour market. The initial cap of 33,000 visas in 1995-96 was increased to 42,000 under pressure for tourism and horticultural lobby groups. In 1996-97 it was set at 50,000 and 55,000 in 1997-98. The cap attracted a great deal of criticism from the horticultural industry (and others) in the 1997 government inquiry. It was argued that there was no need for a cap because the numbers were self regulating with declines occurring at times of economic downturn as is evidenced by the fall in numbers in the depression of the early 1990s. The committee recommended that DIMA continue to set planning levels but not cap the inflow with the decision to be reviewed in three years time.

The committee made a number of recommendations (41) most of which were formally accepted by the government. One recommendation (No. 37) was… ‘A coordinated national strategy for harvest labour recruitment be developed by representative organisations of the horticultural industry in order to reduce the industry’s dependence on working holiday makers and to provide unemployed Australians with year-long either in a particular region or across a variety of regions’. This was accepted by the government and the Harvesting Australia Report of the National Harvest Trail Working Group (2000) was the result of this.

What is clear is that the last decade has seen a growing dependence of many horticulturalists on the labours of WHMs for harvesting fruit and, to a lesser extent, grapes and vegetables.

OTHER INVOLVEMENT OF INTERNATIONAL MIGRANTS IN HARVEST LABOUR IN AUSTRALIA
As pointed out earlier, Australia’s immigration policy shifted significantly in the 1990s in that for the first time it was recognised that there should be substantial numbers of visas granted to people to enter Australia on a non-permanent basis and work. Temporary entry to Australia is now available under three broad categories. Visitors who are not permitted to work in Australia, overseas students who can work up to 20 hours in term time and full-time during breaks and temporary residents who have the right to work. WHMs are part of the group of temporary residents which include the following…

· people with specialist skills, such as management executives, academics and medical practitioners;

· business personnel;

· people who make a social or cultural contribution such as entertainers, visiting academics, etc; and

· people who contribute to the development of international relations such as diplomatic personnel, participants in exchange programs and working holiday makers.

Clearly there is no room in these categories for the direct importation of temporary harvest labour and from time to time in Australia there are representations from growers groups and politicians to allow harvest labourers from Asia to be granted visas under the temporary residence program. Thus far these representations have not been successful.

One of the most controversial areas in the relationship between immigration and harvest labour involves undocumented migrants. The nature of harvest work in that it is often in remote areas, involves temporary work, etc. opens it to the possibility of involvement of undocumented migrants. As Harvesting Australia (2000, p. 42) points out ‘The harvest industry, more so than any other industry, relies on temporary and itinerant workers. Those growers who require a large number of workers for a short period of time would find it time consuming and costly to sight and verify each worker’s identification’. A report on Review of Illegal Workers: Employing Workers from Overseas (DIMA 1999) found that illegal workers in Australia were found predominantly in the hospitality sector followed by brothels, factories and then the rural sector.

In Australia the undocumented migrants that are involved in the harvest industry tend to be of two types. The first are visitors who break the conditions of their visas by seeking and obtaining work. In 1998-99 of the over 5,000 visas cancelled by DIMA around one-fifth were cancelled for breach of working conditions (National Harvest Trail Working Group 2000, p. 42). Part of the massive expansion of overseas tourism to Australia in recent years has been a large growth of so-called ‘backpacker tourism’ i.e. groups of mostly young people who travel to Australia to gain experience and stay in low cost accommodation, travel widely around the country and tend to stay in the country for several months. Evidence presented to the 1997 Inquiry into Working Holiday Makers (1997, p. 36), however, indicated that…

WHMs accounted for only 15 percent of backpacker numbers and 1 percent of total visitor numbers but their length of stay of up to 300 nights…meant that they accounted for about 64 percent of backpacker visitor nights and 14 percent of overall visitor nights.

Hence in many cases the illegal workers in rural areas are young people seeking to help fund their holiday but who are not WHMs (DIMA 1999, p. 66). The 1999 inquiry noted that there is frequently confusion in the media between the terms ‘working holiday maker’ and ‘backpacker’ and indeed the terms are used interchangeably. The Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs has suggested that the labour market impact of backpackers who work without an entitlement could be considerable (Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, Joint Standing Committee on Migration 1997, p. 97).

The other major group of undocumented workers involved in the harvest industry are people who have overstayed their visas and more than other countries Australia can quantify the number of overstayers because of the fact that all people entering and leaving Australia are required to complete an arrival or departure card. This is put into a highly computerised system which allows visa expiry information to be run against departure information thus identifying overstayers. Table 9 shows that in recent years there have been over 50,000 overstayers in Australia and it is known

Table 9: Australia: Number of Overstayers, 1990-2000

Source: DIMA 2000c and d

June 2000
58,748*

December 1999
53,131*

June 1999
53,143

June 1998
50,949

December 1996
45,100

June 1995
51,307

June 1993
79,755

April 1992
81,400

April 1990
90,000


* Excludes unauthorised arrivals by air and by boat.

Note: The introduction of the bridging visa scheme on 1 September 1994 influences the figures since prior to this time persons who do not have a valid visa but had come to the Department’s attention and were waiting for a visa determination or to leave the country were regarded as ‘overstayers’. Subsequently these people were not considered overstayers.

that around half of these are working. Of the overstayers over 27 percent have been in Australia for nine years or longer. The main countries of origin of overstayers are shown in Table 10. It will be noted, however, that it is the countries with the largest numbers of visitors who have the largest numbers of overstayers. A different pattern is evident in Table 11 which shows the rate of overstaying. In Table 10 the countries are predominantly More Developed nations while those in Table 11 are predominantly less developed countries.

Table 10: Australia: Number of Overstayers by Country of Origin – Top 10

Source: DIMA 2000d, p. 107

Country
Number of overstayers at

30 June 2000
Percentage of all overstayers as at

30 June 2000
Number of visitors and temporary residents to Australia

Jan 1995-June 2000
Percentage of overstayers to total temporary entrants and visitors

United Kingdom
5,931
10.10
3,148,431
0.19

USA
4,959
8.10
2,056,030
0.23

Indonesia
3,977
6.77
647,292
0.61

Philippines
3,796
6.46
201,593
1.88

Peoples Republic of China
3,746
6.38
407,183
0.92

Republic of Korea
2,906
4.95
925,392
0.31

Japan
2,648
4.51
4,266,200
0.06

Malaysia
1,911
3.25
777,416
0.25

Thailand
1,632
2.78
362,596
0.45

Germany
1,478
2.52


Table 11: Australia: Rates of Visitor Overstay by Countries of Origin – Top 10

Source: DIMA 2000d, p. 107

Country
Number of overstayers at

30 June 2000
Percentage of all overstayers as at 30 June 2000
Number of visitors and temporary residents to Australia

Jan 1995-June 2000
Percentage of overstayers to total temporary entrants and visitors

Ecuador
104
0.18
1,591
6.54

Tonga
1,084
1.85
20,750
5.22

Burma/Myanmar
150
0.26
5,284
2.84

Viet Nam
1,055
1.80
37,778
2.79

Pakistan
526
0.90
20,063
2.62

Samoa
417
0.71
15,940
2.62

Peru
113
0.19
4,344
2.60

Bangladesh
279
0.47
11,527
2.42

Lebanon
452
0.77
19,129
2.36

Iran
246
0.42
10,672
2.31


Table 12: Compliance Activity

Source: DIMA 1999, p. 25

Year
Number of overstayers located
% increase on previous year’s figures
Number of enforced departures
% increase on previous year’s figures
Number of staff

1995-96
7,814
na
5,381
na
na

1996-97
10,138
29.7
5,654
5.1
200

1997-98
12,906
27.3
6,772
19.8
220

1998-99
13,472
4.4
7,706
13.8
na

1999-2000
7,196
-46.6
na
na
na


Over recent years there has been an increase in efforts made by DIMA to locate overstayers in Australia and Table 12 indicates that the number detected has increased as a result. Raids by DIMA officers on harvesting groups to detect undocumented migrants have been commonplace (Kinnaird 1999, p. 39) and are an issue of discontent among growers because they believe it is keeping away potential labourers including many who have a legal right to work in Australia.

A smaller group of undocumented workers involved in the rural industry are those who have entered the country clandestinely or with forged documentation. The island continent nature of Australia has insulated it to some extent from this type of movement. However, Figure 11 shows that there has been a substantial increase in the number of unlawful arrivals detected in Australia in recent years. This has been largely due to the influx of boat people to the north of Australia in the last two years. It is apparent that people traffickers have become increasingly active in bringing people into Australia illegally by air and by sea. The numbers shown in Figure 11 indicate those who have been detected. Upon detection these people are placed in

Figure 11: Australia: Unauthorised Arrivals, 1989-90 to 1999-2000

Source: DIMA 2000e


detention centres to await deportation or determination of their application for asylum. Hence Table 13 shows that there has been a substantial increase in the numbers in DIMA detention centres in recent years and a concurrent increase in the costs incurred by the government in detaining ‘unlawful non-citizens’. These detention centres came under intense public scrutiny in the latter part of 2000 due to riots in the centres and allegations of abuse of children within the centres. The detention centres have also been the subject of some attention from some horticultural groups who have suggested that detainees could be used as harvest labour and thereby reduce the costs of detention to the government while meeting the labour shortages in the harvest industry. These requests have been turned down by DIMA.

Table 13: Detention: Numbers Detained and Costs

Source: DIMA 1999, p. 24

Year
Number of unlawful non-citizens detained
% increase on previous year’s number of overstayers located
Costs for detaining unlawful non-citizens
% change on cost in previous year

1995-96
1,410
na
$10.4 million
na

1996-97
2,095
45.0
9.3 million
-11.0

1997-98
2,548
21.7
14.4 million
55.4

1998-99
3,574
40.3
17.3 million
20.1


The issue of involvement of undocumented workers in harvesting is a vexed one in Australia. In the 1999 Review of Illegal Workers (DIMA 1999) a number of the recommendations related to the responsibility of employers to check whether applicants for work are legally entitled to work in Australia. It was recommended that a system of sanctions be introduced to discourage business owners, employers and labour suppliers from recruiting illegal workers. In addition, it recommended the introduction of a Work Right Declaration Form that should be completed by all new workers employed (including harvest workers) to ensure that reasonable checks are made of the work status of potential employees. These moves have been vigorously opposed by growers and their representatives as is evident in their submissions to each of the government inquiries referred to in this paper. These complaints involved a number of elements (National Harvest Working Group 2000, p. 43)…

· Harvest workers often work a distance away from their belongings so they are not keen to bring passports, birth certificates, etc. to work for safety reasons;

· Australians do not generally carry identification so requiring them to do so would reduce the availability of even Australian harvest labour.

· Growers are not prepared to become a screening agent for DIMA.

· The sanctions are seen to be unfair.

There is considerable concern about the issue of ‘strict liability for those found to have employed illegal workers and the severe penalties proposed – considered enough to bankrupt the average horticulturalist. Strict liability in this context appears to mean that the onus of proving that all employees engaged had a right to work resides with the employer’ (Calver 2000, p. 4). DIMAs proposal to place the administrative burden of checking every employees right to work on fruit and vegetable growers is considered an unjustifiable cost burden. In the Goulburn Valley alone 10,000 casual workers would need to be checked (Calver 2000, p. 4). The grower would be required to complete the Work Rights Declaration Form and submit it to DIMA. The announcement of these proposals was greeted with hostility and there is strong lobbying against them by growers and representative groups (Calver 2000).

Following raids on farms which turned up illegal workers during the harvest period of early 1999 farmers requested a streamlined process under which tourists could do farm and other seasonal work. However, the Minister responded that rather than making it easier for migrants to enter to work the government was interested in tightening procedures (Sydney Morning Herald March 10 1999).

In 2001 the government plans to introduce legislation to introduce sanctions against employers of illegal workers. It is planned that they will be up to two years in jail or fines of up to A$66,000 and they will be introduced in 2002 following a new public information campaign. A compliance pamphlet will be mailed out to over one million employers. A toll free phone line for employers to make inquiries about workers’ rights, visa conditions and sanctions will be set up (The Australian December 22nd 2000).