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3 Apr 2020

Ben Doherty, Josh Taylo & Paul Karp, The Guardian

Australia: Migrant workers on temporary visas are not eligible for COVID-19 crisis wage subsidy

"'Left with nothing': Australia's migrant workforce face destitution without coronavirus safety net", 1  April 2020


As the Australian government has swung into action to counter the economic chaos of the coronavirus pandemic, outlaying public money to support businesses and a new jobkeeper wage subsidy to keep money in the pockets of employees laid off, Australia's million-strong migrant workforce has been conspicuously absent.


Migrant workers have been acutely affected by the widespread layoffs as a result of Covid-19. Many work in hospitality, retail and services, some of the industries hit hardest by shutdowns, and few have family and community networks they can turn to.


More than a million people in Australia on temporary visas are excluded from the government's jobkeeper and other support payments such as Newstart: about 500,000 international students, 140,000 working holidaymarkers, 120,000 skilled temporary entrants, 200,000 bridging visa holders (largely partner visa applicants or asylum seekers), and more than 16,000 temporary protection visa holders (refugees Australia is legally obliged to protect).


The Council of Small Business Organisations Australia chief executive, Peter Strong, said the ineligibility of most temporary visa workers to access the jobkeeper payment was "definitely a concern".

"Industries have brought these people in to do work, ... we've got to look at that, beyond a doubt," he said.

Asked directly...whether temporary visa holders were eligible for the jobkeeper wage subsidy, prime minister Scott Morrison said "such matters are under consideration".

"But for now, the short answer to that is 'no'."