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International backpackers' experiences of precarious visa-contingent farmwork

Chris Kossen (University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia)
Nicole McDonald (University of Southern Queensland Institute for Resilient Regions, Toowoomba, Australia)
Peter McIlveen (School of Education, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 12 October 2021

Issue publication date: 22 October 2021




Australia's agricultural industry has become highly dependent on young low-cost, overseas “working holiday” visa workers known as “backpackers”, who are notoriously subject to exploitative workplace practices. This study aimed to explore backpackers' experiences in terms of how job demands, job resources and personal resources influence their appraisals of working in agriculture.


In-depth semi-structured interviews were used to explore the work experiences of N = 21 backpackers employed under the Australian Working Holiday visa (subclass 417). Data were analyzed by thematic analysis and organized in terms of job demands and resources.


This study revealed job demands commonly experienced by agricultural backpacker workers (e.g. precarity, physically strenuous work, low pay), and job resources (e.g. adequate training, feedback) and personal resources (e.g. attitude, language) that buffer the demands. The findings indicate that backpackers' appraisals of their experiences and performance decline when demands outweigh resources.


This study offers an emic perspective on the work of an understudied segment of the agricultural workforce. The findings have implications for improving work practices and policies aimed at attracting and retaining this important labor source in the future.



Kossen, C., McDonald, N. and McIlveen, P. (2021), "International backpackers' experiences of precarious visa-contingent farmwork", Career Development International, Vol. 26 No. 7, pp. 869-887.



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