Thursday, February 24, 2005

Guest Workers for Australia

Australia, a country of nations, is always careful about letting people enter the country, be it for a visit, for education or for work and immigration. Australia has a carefully developed immigration program in the last 50 years. One of the main reasons of immigration has been to plug labour shortages.

Now the department of immigration is considering the idea of guest or temporary workers from other countries. They believe that this is a idea worth considering and is the best way to plug the labour shortages.

The Sydney Morning Herald has more on this :

The Government is exploring dumping a century-old ban on the importation of temporary labour to accept foreign "guest workers" to plug Australia's growing labour shortages.

Days after the Prime Minister, John Howard, acknowledged that Australia was "running out of workers", the Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, has revealed she is considering the guest worker option.

Proposals to develop a guest worker category for labour-starved rural industries are already being developed by the influential National Farmers Federation, as part of several measures to overcome shortages.

According to a fierce opponent of the idea, the Australian Workers' Union, the Immigration Department this week began sounding out unions on the issue.

Senator Vanstone said yesterday she was "very interested" in the guest worker idea but it would depend on there being guarantees about their award wages, proper accommodation and repatriation to their home countries.

Several Pacific countries, including Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Nauru, have urged Australia to allow their citizens to work temporarily in Australia to generate incomes for their struggling economies.

Her comments have been hailed by a Mildura-based development group, which is seeking to import about 2000 guest workers from China over the next five years to fill chronic vacancies in the fruit-growing region.

Senator Vanstone's disclosure drew warnings from migration expert Bob Birrell that Australia would be "entering murky waters", given the unsavoury treatment of Kanaka indentured workers from the Pacific islands at the turn of last century, and other countries' experiences with guest workers.

Professor Birrell, the director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research, said the experience of Germany - which had millions of guest workers until the 1970s, then found they did not want to return home - should be remembered by Australia.
The main issue for Australia will be the ability to repatriate the workers back to their home countries and also making sure that the temporary workers are not exploited. The later could be easy for Australia, the former is the main challenge.


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