The Intersecting Interests of Holidaying Backpackers and Farmers at Work
19 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2017
Date Written: November 2015
A reliable workforce remains key for Australia’s agricultural future and using overseas workers remains a successful and favoured strategy for some farmers. Various sectors of Australian agriculture have a growing reliance on overseas staff to provide labour when local staff are unavailable, unwilling or perceived as unsuitable for the work. We investigated the costs and benefits to dairy farm businesses for those employing overseas staff, and those employing local staff. To do this we interviewed thirty dairy farmers from four regions in South-eastern Australia about the structure of their workforce and the impacts they experienced from workforce turnover. Drawing from the analysed interviews, we formed four groups of dairy farm businesses according to whether they had high or low milk production, and whether they employed overseas workers or not. We found that employment strategies were influenced by the farmer’s preparedness to train inexperienced overseas workers compared to their willingness to deal with issues presented by choosing local staff. Agricultural policymakers will need to focus more on how the chosen mix of overseas and local staff impact employees and farmers, rather than assume that any one strategy is better than another.
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