Sydney, Australia, Jan 19 (EFE).- Australia’s prime minister on Wednesday announced incentives to entice international students and backpackers to the country amid a Covid-induced labor shortage.
Among the incentives is a rebate on the application fee for student and working holiday visas, which allows foreigners up to 35 years of age to have temporary jobs during their stay, which are currently AU$630 ($453) and AU$495 respectively.
Around 150,000 students and 23,500 backpackers have a valid visa but are outside the country, according to public broadcaster ABC.
“My message to them is come on down,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press conference in Canberra. “Come on down now because you wanted to come to Australia, you got your visa, we want you to come to Australia and enjoy a holiday here in Australia.”
“Move all the way around the country, and at the same time join our workforce and help us in our agricultural sector, in our hospitality sector, and so many of the other parts of the economy that rely on that labor, on that workforce right now,” he added.
The visa application fee rebate for students will be in place for eight weeks and for backpackers for a period of 12 weeks from Wednesday.
Foreign students not only inject money directly and indirectly into the economy — education is one of Australia’s largest export sectors, but they also work in hospitality, as caregivers and in the trades.
“That is a thank you to [students] for coming back and continuing to choose Australia, but we also want them to come here and be able to be filling some of these critical workforce shortages. Particularly those who are working and being trained in health care, aged care, those types of sectors, that will be incredibly helpful,” said the prime minister, who admitted that he did not know how severe the impact of the highly transmissible Omicron variant could be in the country.
Morrison also announced that he will allocate AU$3 million towards a campaign to attract backpackers and international students.
Australia, which is experiencing a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections and deaths, faces a supply chain crisis due to the arrival of the Omicron variant.
Since the start of the pandemic, the country has recorded more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases — 80 percent of them in the last month, and more than 2,700 deaths. EFE