Richard Butler | Exclusive Report by HAFIZ TODAY NEWS | FEB 6th, 2023

As Pacific Island nations attempt to recuperate from the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia and New Zealand’s seasonal job schemes are serving to households regain incomes and pay for the wants of their communities.

The schemes enable hundreds of Pacific Islanders to undertake agricultural and horticultural work for considerably greater wages than they might obtain again residence.

For Agnes from Vanuatu, an 11-month stint working in Western Australia in 2021 supplied much-needed monetary stability for her household through the pandemic.

“I labored on a farm, selecting strawberries, in Western Australia for 4 months, and after that I went into hospitality working in a resort in Kununurra within the far north of the state,” Agnes, 43, who requested to be referred to by her first identify solely, instructed Al Jazeera.

“The upper earnings earned in Australia helped me to handle my household in Vanuatu, it helped pay college charges and dwelling prices.”

In Pacific Island nations, the so-called labour mobility programmes, nevertheless, provoke sophisticated emotions.


Whereas offering financial alternatives to Pacific Islanders, the schemes are additionally blamed for draining expertise and labour from the tiny, remoted nations, lots of which have lengthy struggled with low progress and excessive unemployment.

Whereas Australia’s Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme is formally aimed on the jobless and unskilled, some governments within the area say that vital numbers of these becoming a member of will not be unemployed however actually maintain positions in sectors similar to manufacturing, hospitality, tourism and healthcare. The PALM scheme, which provides Pacific Islanders the possibility to work in Australia for intervals of as much as 4 years in sectors with labour shortages similar to agriculture, hospitality and aged care, is anticipated to develop in scope amid predictions Australia may have as much as two million vacant mid-skill positions by 2050.

For expert Ni Vanuatu, the ethnic group native to Vanuatu — a group of 80-odd islands situated some 1,750km (1,080 miles) east of Australia — greater wages in Australia supply a serious incentive to go abroad, stated Astrid Boulekone, common supervisor of the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Trade.

“Expert Ni Vanuatu staff on the job are leaving their jobs to affix the Pacific labour mobility program. That is additional exacerbating the prevailing labour shortages of Ni Vanuatu staff with expertise and work expertise required to exchange those that have left their jobs to go to Australia or New Zealand,” Boulekone instructed Al Jazeera. “It’s affecting the capability of native enterprise to drive post-pandemic financial restoration in Vanuatu.”

In Samoa, which has a gross home product (GDP) per capita just like that of Vietnam, the labour programmes have been equally blamed for exacerbating workforce shortages within the native agricultural business, in keeping with Fuimaono Rosalia Me, a cultural adviser for the Girls in Enterprise Growth non-profit.

“It has taken away our totally in a position people who find themselves essential for the way forward for households that maintain agro-businesses and assist exports in agriculture commodities to abroad and area of interest markets, which is the spine of our financial system,” Rosalia Me instructed Al Jazeera.

Whereas the Australian authorities says that the number of momentary staff is made by Pacific Island nations, greater than 10 % of the male working-age populations of Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu are believed to be employed as momentary staff in Australia and New Zealand, in keeping with a report final yr by the Australian Nationwide College’s Growth Coverage Unit.

Labour market imbalances are longstanding points for Pacific Island nations. For years, inhabitants progress has outpaced financial progress in lots of the islands. Restricted formal sector jobs, underdeveloped personal sectors, and huge youth populations have mixed to go away many Pacific Islanders liable to joblessness. Just one-quarter to one-third of school-leavers within the area safe formal sector roles, in keeping with Australia’s Lowy Institute.

In lots of Pacific Island nations, it’s left to the casual financial system to soak up as much as 85 % of working-age individuals, in keeping with the Lowy Institute.

Whereas essential to the survival of thousands and thousands throughout the area, the casual sector can be affected by low wages and poor working situations, issues which have been heightened by the pandemic.

The loudest issues have been raised within the smallest island nations, the place the departure of working-age individuals has been felt most keenly. Among the many 34,400 Pacific Islanders in momentary employee programmes in Australia and New Zealand in mid-2022, one-third have been from Vanuatu, 22 % from Samoa and 15 % from Tonga, in contrast with simply 10 % from bigger Fiji and Solomon Islands.

Nonetheless, governments within the area have acknowledged that labour schemes will play an essential position of their restoration from the pandemic.


In nations similar to Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Samoa and Nauru, economists have predicted that GDP per capita will nonetheless be beneath pre-pandemic ranges in 2027.

“For the reason that COVID-19 pandemic, labour mobility alternatives have change into much more essential to assist assist our financial and social restoration efforts notably on the family degree,” Leatinu’u Wayne So’oialo, Samoa’s Minister of Commerce, Trade and Labour, stated in an handle to a regional labour mobility summit held within the capital Apia in November.

On the similar time, Wayne So’oialo acknowledged the necessity to handle points similar to mind drain.

Regardless of these issues, a said purpose of the labour schemes has been to develop the talents base in Pacific Islands.

“The Australian Authorities encourages the recruitment of unskilled staff and invests in expertise improvement for the Pacific and Timor Leste staff to make sure we ship a ‘mind acquire’ for the Pacific household,” a spokesperson for Australia’s Division of International Affairs and Commerce instructed Al Jazeera.

Boulekone, the final supervisor of the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Trade, stated the schemes had introduced advantages to the nation by way of “remittances, upskilling and funding alternatives for our women and men in private, household, neighborhood and enterprise actions”.

In Samoa, labour mobility “elevates requirements of dwelling, it permits Samoan households to construct properties, buy automobiles, land in city areas and luxurious objects, similar to TVs, washing machines,” stated Rosalia Me of Girls in Enterprise Growth.

“For the communities, it assists in constructing church buildings, college buildings and neighborhood assembly shelters.”


Boosting recruitment from the extra populous nations with excessive ranges of poverty, similar to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Solomon Islands, in addition to from rural and distant areas, would improve the advantages of labour mobility to essentially the most susceptible and scale back the drain on smaller nations, in keeping with a report by Richard Curtain, an skilled on Pacific labour markets and migration on the Australian Nationwide College.

PNG and Solomon Islands have populations of about 9 million and 700,000 respectively, in contrast with Vanuatu with about 300,000 individuals and Samoa with simply greater than 200,000. The Australian authorities has pledged to extend recruitment in bigger nations and claims to have raised the participation of Solomon Islanders greater than nine-fold in lower than two years.

Merilyn Temakon, an assistant lecturer in regulation on the College of the South Pacific in Fiji, stated there needs to be a long-term nationwide plan in regard to labour mobility in order that Islanders are “educated to have the ability to change into innovators and inventors utilizing our personal native assets and data”, not simply “labourers in a overseas land”.

However, for Agnes, even with further expertise and expertise, discovering a job again residence continues to be a wrestle.

“It’s actually arduous to seek out work in Vanuatu. I’m at present unemployed, though I’m searching for work as a housekeeper,” she stated.