Samoan workers get a briefing from Government officials before heading overseas to work under the RSE Scheme
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Suva (September 04, 2017) – Immigration officials from across the Pacific are meeting this week to discuss how their agencies can support labour mobility efforts to contribute to development and regionalism.
Topics covered include the Australia and New Zealand seasonal worker schemes and the role of trade agreements in supporting labour mobility.
In attendance is Auseuga Lagavale Uiti, a seasonal worker from Samoa who shared the experience of his village, Poutasi in the district of Falealili, which approached New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme as a collective, more than 10 years ago.
For families of workers in Samoa, the (RSE) scheme has meant the capacity to pay for university fees, build homes and improve churches, and raise capital for business ventures in transport, farming and animal husbandry. While in New Zealand, workers have managed to complete literacy, numeracy, business and leadership courses.
Through the village process, successful applicants must plant 5000 taro tops and seven trees before leaving. Misbehavior in New Zealand can mean a significant fine for the family back home or a five-year recruitment ban on one’s village.
“We are very careful when recruiting: discipline is paramount. Before they leave, they undergo training to make sure they are fit, they learn about relevant laws. They take the Samoa culture with them,” Mr Uiti said.
The Pacific Immigration Director Conference (PIDC) and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat are hosting the event. The PIDC is using this workshop as a springboard towards the development of a labour mobility support framework.
Republic of the Marshall Islands Ministry of Justice Division of Immigration Director, Damien Jacklick and Vice-Chair of PIDC said labour mobility, as one of the key economic drivers for the Pacific Islands, would naturally require movements of people across borders.
“This is where immigration agencies can work to support the development and implementation of national labour mobility policies as countries that both send and receive migrant workers,” Mr Jacklick said.
“Labour mobility is a critical issue in our region. It can create jobs and serve as an important source of income and remittances. Notably, Australia and New Zealand have introduced a number of schemes to enable Pacific Islanders to work in those countries.”
“In recognizing this and the importance of collaborating with national labour agencies, our Members are working towards developing a PIDC Framework that will guide and inform our engagement with existing stakeholders, at national and regional levels, to maximise better use of resources,” Ioane Alama, Head of the PIDC Secretariat, said.
The Forum Secretariat is working with the PIDC Secretariat as a key partner to advance last year’s Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ decision, to explore ways to increase the development benefits that flow from labour mobility in the region.
Challenges, including a shortage of employment opportunities and geographical distance from markets, in the Forum’s Smaller Islands States saw their Leaders recognize labour mobility at their recent meeting in Samoa as a critical development issue that they wish to see addressed.