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Temporary Migration | Australia |

Australia Background Information Permanent Migration Temporary Migration Irregular Migration Emigration Population Conclusion References

Temporary Migration

Graeme Hugo

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Australia has long had an emphasis on attracting permanent settlers to the country and a strongly expressed opposition to attracting temporary and contract workers. During the labour shortage years of the 1950s and 1960s Australia´s migration solution to the problem contrasted sharply with that of European nations like Germany and France, when it opted to concentrate on attracting permanent migrants to meet worker shortages rather than contract workers.

However, since the mid 1990s attitudes have changed in Australia and it has been recognised that in the context of globalised labour markets it is essential to have mechanisms to allow non-permanent entry of workers in certain skilled groups in shortage in Australia (e.g. nurses, engineers) and it has introduced a suite of temporary-residence visa categories. The temporary migration program has an even greater focus on skill than the permanent settlement program.

The numbers reflecting those arriving and their various temporary visa categories are presented in the figure.

Permanent program outcomes and temporary entry visa grants (bpb) Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de

The Temporary Business Entry Visa (457 "business long stay", see Interner Link: Permanent Migration) is similar to the H-1B visa in the United States in that it is initiated by employers. Contrary to the United States, it is not capped (no maximum quota). It is even more focussed on skill than the permanent migration program via the points system, being confined to the managerial, professional, paraprofessional and trades occupation categories. Recent research has shown it has been generally quite successful. However, the 457 Program has come under intense scrutiny in recent times, with some employers being accused of misusing the scheme to displace Australian workers, especially in some regional areas. The number of new 457s continued to increase rapidly so that in 2007-08, some

61.390 new applications were lodged and in mid-2008 there were 134.238 people in the 457 designation working in Australia. The onset of the global financial crisis saw the number of new applications fall to 54.810 in 2008-09.The largest, and most rapidly increasing, inflow of temporary migrants with the right to work in Australia has been of foreign students. In mid-2008 there were 317.897 foreign students resident in Australia, with 80.2 percent being from Asia. This inflow brought an estimated A$15.5 billion into Australia in 2008, which makes it the third largest export earner after mining and tourism. Australia, with around a fifth of its university population made up of foreign students, has one of the highest such proportions for any country. Students can work for up to 20 hours during term time and full time during breaks. They can and do often apply for permanent residence after completion of their studies.

The Working Holiday Maker (WHM) program has also reached record levels, with 154.148 arrivals in 2007-08, doubling in the last 10 years and increasing by 15 percent over the previous year. The WHM program is a reciprocal one that allows young people (aged 18-30 years) from 19 nations to have working holidays in Australia for periods of up to a year. The fact that WHMs fill some important niches in the labour market, such as in harvesting, tourist activity and restaurants, has been recognised by recent legislation allowing WHMs to extend their stay in Australia if they work in particular areas of labour shortage.

A distinctive feature of the temporary migration program is that it is restricted to skilled workers. However, an initiative of the new Labour government was the announcement in 2008 of a new visa which is a pilot project intended to run over three years and allow 2.500 seasonal workers from Kiribati, Papua-New Guinea, Tonga and Vanuatu to work in the horticultural industry in regional Australia for up to seven months each year. This follows considerable pressure from regional horticultural employers, and from Pacific countries to provide employment for their burgeoning workforce-age populations.



  1. Khoo et al. (2007).

  2. The Labour government was elected in 2007 after eleven years of the conservative Liberal and Country parties being in power.

  3. World Bank (2006).

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