Major Australian labour shortage looming at harvest time

The challenge for growers in Australian horticulture is to find sufficient labour for the months of September 2020 to January 2021 to harvest the fruit and vegetables they have produced.

The total estimated seasonal workforce needed for horticulture for the spring and summer harvest season ahead could be up to 40,000 workers, based on the previous demand for seasonal workers over that period. This overall estimate of demand is at the lower end because we do not know how many other casual workers were employed, or the number of Working Holiday Makers (WHM, or backpackers) who worked in horticulture but did not complete 88 days of specified work in regional Australia to obtain a second-year visa.

This estimate of demand is based on visa approvals for backpackers and Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste. In the 12 months to the end of March 2020, just under 32,000 backpackers were granted a second-year visa after working for 88 days in agriculture.

In addition, 7,999 SWP workers were granted visas to work in the period August 2019 to January 2020. As the figure below shows, the peak month for engaging SWP workers is November but their number increases from August.

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