Australia's Temporary Migrant Work Programs and Its Neighbouring Regions

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: 415
Oral Presentation
Nicole OKE , College of Arts, Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Temporary Foreign Worker Programs have boomed in Australia over the last two decades, with this group of migrants now comprising the largest category of migrant entrants. Overall, migration from Asia and the Pacific has likewise expanded over this time. TFWs are employed in Australia on a range of visa types; but – with a few exceptions – the visa categories open to migrants from Asia and the Pacific are a skilled worker program (the 457 visa), student visas with work rights, and a ‘migration and development’ styled program with some nations in the Pacific (the Seasonal Workers Program). TFWPs are one aspect of the formation of regional and global divisions around work. The focus in this paper is on the ways in which these programs of temporary work are an aspect of the shaping of relations between Australia and these neighbouring regions.

 In Australia as elsewhere, temporary work carries inherent vulnerabilities. These are likely to be felt more keenly in the lower skilled sectors of the workforce. It is not insignificant that there are concentrations of temporary migrant workers from the lower-income states in Asia and the Pacific working in lower paid work, in casualised sectors of the economy. While not surprising, this is a way global and regional divisions of labor are constituted and that this migration is temporary, is one of the ways regional patterns can become embedded in the workforce. The argument is not that there is a singular economic logic to the formation of these patterns but rather a number of regional factors at play. These issues are explored in this paper drawing on an analysis of the different categories of temporary migration in Australia.