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Out of 9,000 workers - Tonga, Vanuatu are most successful

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, May 12, 2011) - Tonga is one of the Pacific countries that has successfully engaged with New Zealand’s seasonal employment scheme, now generating huge benefits for Pacific families and attracting the support of donor agencies.

Senior Economist of the World Bank, Dr. Majula Luthria told Matangi Tonga Online on May 11, that the Recognized Seasonal Employer Scheme to New Zealand (RSE) had been doing very well in the Pacific and up to 9,000 Pacific migrant workers are being employed, with Tonga and Vanuatu as the most successful countries.

"It has been an excellent tool for employment creation and poverty alleviation and the World Bank is keen to nurture it because we have seen the huge benefits the scheme has generated for Pacific migrant workers and their families," she said.

The challenges and opportunities faced by labour migration in the Pacific region as well as successes of existing labour mobility schemes in creating jobs for migrant workers, were topics addressed in a first Pacific Labour-Sending Countries Forum in Nuku’alofa on May 11-12.

Luthria said the forum initiated by the World Bank brought together Pacific Island Governments and other stakeholders.

"The forum will also provide us donor agencies with a better understanding of where our support is needed," she said.

She said the World Bank had invited the Philippines and Sri Lanka to attend because of their wealth of experience in sending migrant workers abroad and share their experiences and provide guidance with the Pacific Forum.

RSE, now in its fourth year, has sent over 1,000 Tongan workers to New Zealand and it had become a vital source of foreign earnings and an important employment opportunity for Tongans.

Tonga’s Minister of Labour and Commerce Honorable Lisiate ‘Akolo in his keynote address, said that migration employment holds immense value to both countries of origin and destination.

He said that the Pacific’s historical ties to New Zealand and Australia had allowed temporary labour migration such as the RSE and the Pacific Seasonal Workers Pilot scheme to Australia.

"We have seen first hand benefits of these seasonal programs to individual countries and rural communities with significant positive impact on capital flow, growth, skills development and poverty alleviation through remittances to countries."

At the same time he said that there had been reciprocal benefit to the destination industries that have benefited from willing and able workers. ":It’s a win-win situation from the program".

Tonga was into its fourth year now with RSE and three years on the PSWPS with Australia. RSE had an excellent evaluation last year by New Zealand and a review by Australia last year indicated some teething problems but as its program settled it had matured into positive out comes today, he noted.

The outcome expected was for the forum to structure suitable recommendations for implementations that would result in improvements in engagements in labour migration within the region and internationally, he said.

Participating countries include Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Samoa, Vanuatu and Tonga with officials from receiving labour countries of New Zealand and Australia.

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