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Push for incentives to encourage school leavers to spend their gap year picking fruit

Young Australians are being urged to take a fruit picking gap year to help ease a serious agricultural labour crisis.

A bipartisan parliamentary committee has suggested a push to encourage school leavers and university graduates to take a farm work gap year and incentives for those who are willing to do so.

Chair of the parliamentary committee on migration, Liberal MP Julian Leeser, said farmers rely on foreign labour for the harvesting season, and that workforce has fallen by more than half since COVID-19 hit.

“We had, at the beginning of year, around 150,000 foreign backpackers in Australia … we’ve got about 70,000 left, and we’ve got an urgent labor shortage in our farms across the country,” he told Ross and Russel.

“We’ve got Australians who who would’ve otherwise gone overseas for a gap year.

“Those Australians should see Bundaberg before they see Berlin.”

Mr Leeser urged school leavers to take up the opportunity.

“Stay home and see our country and help us out with something that we urgently need to deal with, and that’s the harvest season,” he said.

The parliamentary committee has recommended incentives to entice young people to undertake farm work.

“We’ve … suggested as an incentive that the government could offer HECS-HELP discounts to young people who are prepared to do this,” he said.

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Image: Getty