A possie in Aussie

October 9, 2009

Backpackers: yet another category of exploited migrants

Are backpackers marginalised migrants?

I stretching things too far?

In 2007-08 the number of working holiday-makers young people increased by nearly 14.5% from 2006–07 to 2007–08 (DIAC). The report for 2008-09 will be released at the end of this month. Despite the global economic crisis, it is expected that the number of young people entering Australia on Working Holiday Visas will remain strong. More Young People Applying for Australian Working Holiday Visas

The “417 working visa” enables them to remain for 12 months and to work and earn money to augment the funds they bring with them.  If they wish to stay longer, a second 12-month visa may be granted, but only if the applicant has worked for three months in primary industry.

The second visa can lead to the holy grail of permanent residency in Australia. (While most backpackers are from the UK, Koreans come a close second.)

Mike Pope of Online Opinion claims that there are arrangements between farmers and hostel operators that take advantage of the conditions which apply to the working visa under which most backpackers come to Australia. Backpacker exploitation?

The problem is that there are more backpackers than regional primary industry jobs available.

Mike says that backpacker hostels make “arrangements with local farmers to be the sole supplier of labour to their farm. Backpackers are rarely able to secure employment from other sources since hostels tend to corner the market. They must therefore stay at a hostel to gain employment.

“Those using this as a strategy to attract backpackers to stay at their hostel are able to price the accommodation they offer more highly than they otherwise might do. They can and often do sleep six or more backpackers to a room and charge them as much as $20 each per night for the privilege.

Mike claims that it is not only hostels which take advantage of backpackers in this way. Some farmers hire hostel-provided workers under absolute minimum conditions.

“Fruit and vegetable picking is often undertaken in hot conditions in relatively remote open fields. The farmer may provide a shade area, toilet facilities and drinking water. Many do not. Any complaint can be (and is) met with an invitation to find work elsewhere.” (See Union asks for ban on foreign students in trade jobs)

I’ll tell you the moral of this story: the dream of permanent residency combined with  a lack of rights opens the way for exploitation.

Yes, backpackers are marginalised migrants.

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