Visa rebates welcomed by businesses but say 'ban on foreign tourists must be lifted'

$55 million rebate scheme is Morrison's solution – but does it go far enough?

Visa rebates welcomed by businesses but say 'ban on foreign tourists must be lifted'

On 19 January, the federal government announced a fee rebate to international students and backpackers who would return to the country in the following months. The decision is seen as a solution to COVID-19’s “workforce gaps,” but businesses said that the ban on foreign tourists and travellers “must be reconsidered to get the country back to business.”

In a report published by ABC News, the fee rebate scheme is around $55 million and is expected to “entice roughly 150,000 students and 23,500 backpackers who currently hold a visa and are not in the country.”

"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," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in the same report.

In a media release from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, its chief executive Andrew McKellar said that the rebates “will be critical in filling labour and workforce gaps, particularly in our tourism and hospitality industries.”

Meanwhile, Australian Chamber-Tourism Chair John Hart said that reopening international borders is also crucial as it “will provide the tourism industry with the confidence to resume their operations.”

“Given the high rates of community transmission and the protocols for international arrivals to Australia, we must immediately end the ban on international tourists, business travellers and other barred international arrivals, to support those businesses that are reliant on these arrivals,” Hart said in Australian Chamber’s media release.

Takeaways for HR leaders

  • The skills shortage is impacting employers across Australia – with HR leaders struggling to plug the talent gaps. The new visa fee refund plan could be an effective way of inticing backpackers into the workforce – especially in hard hit industries like hospitality and tourism.
  • However, businesses are calling for more action – in partcilar a lift on the forgein tourist ban. Industries in Australia rely on the inflx of tourists in order to stay afloat. HR leaders in harder hit setcors should be looking at wage increases or incentives to lure in new hires.
  • A recent survey from Qualitrix suggested HR leaders invets more in L&D and upskilling their already existing employee base in order to remain competitive.

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