Shanthi Robertson, an Institute for Culture and Society research fellow, at the University of Western Sydney, writing in “The Conversation” today, says “They’re long-term, temporary and invisible: our other migrant workers.”
She is referring to foreign students on working holiday visas and temporary graduate visas, who visit Australia for relatively long periods.
Unemployed young people from other countries may be easily attracted, because working anywhere, even in country areas, is better than staying home and not working at all.
“These visas primarily attract young people seeking an overseas work and life experience, or a pathway to more permanent migration.”
“Yet, because these visa categories are usually associated with international education and tourism, their significance as forms of labour migration are effectively hidden from public view and often underplayed by policy makers.” – Shanthi Robertson, in The Conversation
Regional Businesses Benefit
Regional businesses often benefit from these workers, because one scheme for these visitors/workers allows a stay up to two years in Australia. To qualify, they must be willing to spend three months working in specified regional industries such as agriculture, fishing and pearling, or mining and construction.
Ms Robertson says these workers are usually ignored by the government, for their effect on employment and unemployment. She also says that, as has been seen in many other countries, including the USA, they are easily exploited.
Youth unemployment all over the world appears to be worse than average, as has been noted by a number of stories referring to “Millennials,” including New Study Shows Young Women Suffer Under Obama’s Economic Policies.
Caution On Temporary Visas
In Australia, Mark O’Connor, a speaker and author interested in immigration matters says that while he generally considers it a good thing for young people to be able to have working holidays or to study in other countries, there are some caveats.
O’Connor says he has three notes of caution:
1. Any economic benefits must be set against the huge infrastructure cost of adding to the total Resident Population. Universities at present overcharge (or you may prefer to say, turn a profit) by about $2000 a year on each full-fee-paying OS student. Yet the added infrastructure cost per each extra Australian resident is at least $200,000 – and the OS students aren’t always just passing through. As a previous article in The Conversation pointed out, the hope of permanent residency for oneself ,and perhaps in time other family members, is a major reason OS students choose to come to Australia. Yet State Labor governments across Australia have recently lost office, seemingly because even in a boom they cannot cover the service and infrastructure costs of expanding populations; and quality of life in our cities is widely felt to be declining.
So an ever-expanding immigration-linked overseas student “industry” is a crazy way to fund our universities. We could fund the best universities in the world with the money saved by NOT selling permanent residency through our universities. Overseas students would still come in sizable numbers, but those who came would then on average be more sincere about pursuing education.
2. It’s largely a myth that Australia is short of labour. Our real unemployment figures, according to the Roy Morgan pollsters, have long been around 10%. (The ABS figure of around 5% is accurately measured, but uses an absurdly limited definition of “unemployed.”
3. Those economists who refuse to accept that there are environmental or resource limits to “growth,” often talk as if the only real limit was the supply of suitable workers. Don’t let them get away with this assumption. The Sex Industry, which you discuss, is a good example. Even assuming that it is good to increase the size of any “industry,” we still need to ask whether its size is set by the skilled workforce available, rather than by demand and profitability.
Business folk whining about their “need” for more (=cheaper) labour should be bluntly told that market forces apply. It is their job to write business plans that work, not the government’s job to artificially lower the market price of labour, or skilled labour, in their region.
Mark O’Connor co-authored the book “Overloading Australia,” with William Lines.
Giving An Inch, Taking A Mile
As Ms. Robertson says, “the longer people stay, the longer they want to stay.”
Temporary visa recipients are not guaranteed permanent status at any time, yet there are ways they can legally remain in Australia for up to nine years. If governments are ignoring these large numbers for convenience sake, because they think of them as “temporary” and therefore of no impact, they are doing a disservice to citizens.
Unemployment is rising everywhere now, and although we may want to be benevolent and help others, helping them and disadvantaging our own people makes no sense at all.