Northern Australia needs more working holiday visa holders

05 December 2015


The Northern Territory in Australia is experiencing a shortage of hospitality workers, resulting in businesses struggling to recruit staff and business closures. Demand for overseas nationals with working holiday visas is high, with many businesses reliant on them for survival. A report by the Australian Hotel Association (AHA) reveals that traders in Darwin, in the Northern Territory are struggling to recruit staff.

According to the AHA, the number of Irish nationals taking up working holiday visas in Australia has dropped by 50 per cent. Instead, travellers are opting for New Zealand and Canada where working holiday visas are cheaper and less difficult to obtain. The Australian working holidaymaker visa is also popular with British nationals.

The fee for a working holiday visa in Australia is $440. In contrast, a similar visa in Canada costs $150 according to the AHA. In addition businesses in the Northern Territory say that the new tax of 32.5 per cent on the income of backpackers to be introduced on 1 July 2015 has already resulted in many travellers boycotting the Australian working holidaymaker visa scheme.

The tax will replace the current tax-free income threshold of $18,000; the 32.5 per cent tax rate will apply to money earned by those on an Australian working holiday visa up to AUS$80,000.

Australia Immigration urged to simplify visa application process

The Northern Territory Government has urged the Federal Government to make the visa application and assessment process easier. Additionally, it wants working holiday visa fees to be reduced, the tax-free threshold to be reviewed and the age limit for visa applicants increased.

In a report submitted to the Australian Parliament, Chief Minister Adam Giles said: "The declining number of UK backpackers and travellers from other nations is one of the biggest concerns that the Northern Territory is faced with. Certainly, the cost increase of the working holiday maker visa has had a profound impact on Australia's appeal as a destination of choice for travellers."

"It is astonishing that while competitor destinations, like Canada, are cutting working holiday maker visa fees, Australia's continue to soar under the guise of 'cost recovery'," Mr Giles added.

Dean Johnston, the manager of Monsoon, said backpackers on a working holiday maker visa account for half their staff. However, they have experienced a significant decline in the number of job applications. Mr Johnston said: "Normally, you're tripping over people handing in a resume (CV). Lack of new recruits puts added pressure on current staff and finding cover for employees on leave or off sick is getting harder."

Janet McElwee, the owner of the Rum Jungle Tavern, has found it increasingly difficult to recruit staff for her pub. She said that a month of her time had been spent desperately trying to fill staff vacancies and hire qualified chefs.

"If it wasn't for backpackers from the UK, and other nations for that matter, we'd go out of business. They're fantastic for business because they are travelling and have happy and bubbly personalities, which lifts the locals," she said.

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Written by Daniel Waldron and Sanwar Ali

Edited by Sanwar Ali