Working holiday visas on the rise again

Australian working holiday visas on the rise - Newsreel
Young people from overseas are returning to Australia in big numbers on working holiday visas. | Photo: Andresr

Young people on working holiday visas are returning to Australia en masse after numbers dwindled dramatically during the pandemic.

An OECD report on regional migration said Working Holiday Maker scheme visas peaked at 258,000 in 2012-13 before bottoming out at 39,586 during the COVID-19 years.

The numbers recovered to 224,431 in 2022–23.

The visa program, for people aged from 18 to 35 (age depends on country of origin) has been in place for 50 years in some form. It was originally established to attract young seasonal workers from Canada, Ireland and the UK.

Despite its popularity, the OECD report cited concerns from some experts that the work requirements to qualify for the visas would place backpackers in vulnerable situations in which they accepted sub-standard working conditions.

The report, released this week, said the program contributed an estimated $3.1 billion to the Australian economy and was an important part of filling skill gaps in country areas.

It has the dual purpose of attracting temporary labour and boosting tourism.

“Working Holiday Maker programs play a critical role in addressing skills shortages across Australia, notably in the horticulture and agriculture sectors, and in more remote regions,” the OECD said.

“Based on most recent data, the top nationalities granted visas in 2022–23 were the United Kingdom (17 percent), France (12 percent), and Ireland (9.6 percent),” the OECD said,

All of these countries had a 100 percent increase in working holiday grants in 2022-23 compared with the previous year, as did Taiwan. Indonesia and China were also significant sources of working backpackers.