There has long been an unskilled labour shortage in regional Australia, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse than ever. With foreign workers normally making up about 80% of the harvest workforce required for our sprawling agricultural industry, border restrictions have led to an enormous shortfall of an estimated 26,000 workers.
While the Pacific Labour Scheme has existed in Australia since 2017, it’s now become a vital resource to help farmers and other businesses access low and semi-skilled workers. This visa programme permits workers from Timor-Leste and neighbouring Pacific countries, including Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, to live and work in Australia for up to three years.
But does the Pacific Labour Scheme provide a suitable solution to Australia’s rural labour shortages? Here, we take a brief look at how businesses can benefit from this initiative.
Fighting Labour Supply Issues
Regional Australia faces a range of concerns when it comes to fighting labour supply issues on its own. With research finding that job vacancies have grown in rural areas by around 20% since 2016, businesses have faced an uphill battle to attract workers, provide training and retain them long-term.
With this shortage of workers leading to numerous stories about wasted crops and higher food prices, the Pacific Labour Scheme is seen as a win-win initiative that helps out the Australian economy, while also supporting our neighbouring countries with jobs, training and other opportunities.
As the Pacific Labour Scheme requires employers to complete the process of labour market testing – meaning employers must search for local workers before engaging overseas labour – the scheme does not take jobs away from Australians. But as many parts of regional Australia have experienced labour shortages for years, the Pacific Labour Scheme provides a convenient alternative when other avenues have come up short.
With businesses across every industry able to access a reliable workforce through the Pacific Labour Scheme, this initiative also houses workers within the towns they work. This helps to establish links inside the community and ensure workers contribute in other ways outside of their labour.
Manage Your Workforce with FIP
If you’re a regional business that’s struggling to find enough workers to meet demand, FIP is here to help. Our team of recruitment specialists can assist your business gain access to the Pacific Labour Scheme and resolve complex operational concerns. Get in touch to learn more today.