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Australia extends 'backpacker visas' to ease farm worker shortage

AFP  |  Sydney 

announced Monday that it was extending working holiday to allow young travellers to stay longer in the country to help meet a shortage of farm labourers.

The change allows travellers on so-called "backpacker visas" to remain in for up to three years if they spend at least six months doing agricultural work.

Previously the one-year "Working Holiday Maker" allowed travellers to remain for a second year if they took up work in the remote

From July 2019, they can extend this to a third year as long as they spend six months working in agricultural regions suffering from particularly acute labour shortages.

The new rules were announced by during a visit to farming communities in the eastern state of Queensland, a key battleground for his fragile coalition government which must face a national election by May.

Australia's conservative government has since 2017 been reducing the scope of temporary working as part of a broader effort to curb immigration.

But the agriculture sector has complained of severe labour shortages during harvest periods, especially in rural Queensland, prompting Monday's changes.

More than 200,000 working holiday maker visas were granted in 2017-18, with Britain, and providing the most participants from the 45 nations eligible for the programme.

Last week a survey published by the found that most international students and backpackers working in earned only a fraction of the minimum wage.

"Our study confirms that Australia has a large, silent underclass of underpaid migrant workers," said UNSW Bassina Farbenblum. "The scale of unclaimed wages is likely well over a billion dollars.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, November 05 2018. 13:10 IST