Study of important horticulture sector labour groups

A report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has assessed the contribution of working holiday makers and workers from the Seasonal Worker Programme to Australian horticulture and found each group offers unique advantages to employers.

ABARES Executive Director, Dr Steve Hatfield-Dodds, said the study, commissioned by the World Bank, focused on the productivity and contribution to farm profitability of these two labour sources.

“Our report found seasonal workers and working holiday makers both play important roles in Australian horticulture,” Dr Hatfield-Dodds said.

“We found workers from the Seasonal Worker Programme delivered higher productivity and less staff turnover, while working holiday makers could be accessed at short notice to meet urgent demand in peak periods.

“Seasonal workers had 20 per cent higher productivity, and were seen by growers as reliable and motivated, with a predictable employment term.

“There were considerable productivity gains from seasonal workers who returned to the same farm in subsequent seasons and had already developed skills and farm knowledge.

“Seasonal workers also had an average work period of 22 weeks compared to working holiday makers’ five weeks.

“The study also found seasonal workers involved higher non-wage labour costs than working holiday makers, due to their recruitment processes and the transport and pastoral care provided to assist workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste settle into Australian communities.

“The report found, however, that it was likely seasonal workers delivered an overall profitability gain to employers—with higher average productivity at least covering their non-wage labour costs.

“A key benefit growers found with working holiday makers was they were easier to access at short notice, although they tended to have shorter periods of employment and higher turnover, requiring more training.”

World Bank Country Director for Papua New Guinea and Pacific Islands, Michel Kerf, said the study provides more proof of the value-add Pacific Islanders participating in the Seasonal Worker Program are delivering for Australian agribusiness.

“The study’s analysis shows the positive return investment in Seasonal Worker Program participants delivers for Australian farms.

“We look forward to continuing our work with development partners and stakeholders to ensure programs like this are continuing to benefit participants and farmers.”

Source: Australian Government

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