Ongoing skilled labour shortages currently hampering the hospitality industry are a step closer to a long-term solution after the Federal Government announced plans to expand the existing Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa program.
Taking effect on July 1, the expanded program opens up a number of new countries eligible to apply for the WHM visa such as Greece and Ecuador. In addition, place caps for applicants from Spain, Israel, Peru, Argentina, Malaysia, Singapore, Portugal and Chile have been increased and the maximum age for French applicants raised to 35.
While remaining a two-year program, a third year extension is available to those who venture out of the cities to work in a regional area with a recognised labour shortage for at least six months in their second year.
Tourism Accommodation Australia CEO, Michael Johnson, said the changes showed the government was listening to the concerns of the hospitality industry.
“Each year Working Holiday Makers play a crucial role in Australia’s hotels, restaurants, pubs and taverns.
“Today’s announcement will help businesses access to the labour they require, allowing them to grow and create more jobs.
“This will not only deliver a dividend in terms of increasing an important source of labour, but the evidence shows that Working Holiday Makers spend what they earn in Australia and disperse widely throughout Australia’s regional areas,” Johnson added.
Despite the positive news, the TAA said it was now hoping to turn the government’s attention to a shortage of migrant labour in skilled roles such as IT and trades to help the hospitality industry fill skilled positions.
Calls for the expansion have been growing for some time throughout the industry, with both the TAA and AAoA campaigning on the industry’s behalf to simplify the application process along with visa costs to help hospitality businesses fill vacancies for which the local talent pool didn’t respond.