Dr Hyeseon Jeong1
1Migrant Workers Centre, Carlton, Australia
Working holidays makers (WHMs) from Asia make up 20% of the workforce at a typical meat processing facility in Australia today. These workers do not come with industry-specific skills or experience. Their visa conditions make WHMs’ labour contingent. What can explain the red meat industry’s demand of WHMs despite the cost of training and contingency? What can explain WHMs’ engagement in an industry in which they do not have a career? In-depth interviews with WHMs, recruiters, and union officials reveal that temporary staffing service providers are indispensable in connecting WHMs and the red meat industry. Temporary staffing service providers with transnational ties between Asia and Australia recruit Asian WHMs with a false promise of good wages and ways to bypass their visa conditions. The red meat industry finds temporary staffing with WHMs attractive because service providers shift businesses’ cost of training and contingency to WHMs. As a result, WHMs are exposed to dire working conditions, underpayment, and risks of breaching their visa conditions. This case study suggests that the Australian model of transnational temping is built on young Asian WHMs’ information gap and exploitation and that there is an urgent need for a thorough regulation of temporary staffing services.
Hyeseon Jeong is a political geographer by training and labour activist by passion. She received a PhD in geography from the Ohio State University and taught at Wright State University and University of Newcastle. Her research investigates international aid, territorial nationalism, transnational migration, and the migration-development nexus.