A recent World Bank report on labour mobility in the Pacific Islands region has estimated that some 240,000 more Pacific Islanders could migrate abroad by the year 2040, if reforms in labour mobility regimes are made by both sending and receiving countries.
The report titled Pacific Possible: Labour Mobility found further estimates that this would generate up to $10 billion of additional income, with most of this income retained by workers while $800 would be remitted back to island nations, potentially making a significant contribution to island economies.
The report looks far beyond the existing seasonal worker schemes run by New Zealand and Australia. It highlights an increasing need for Pacific workers in other areas of work particularly in New Zealand and Australia. For instance, the share of people aged 80 and over will double by year 2040. The aged care sector will therefore have shortages of both residential and community care workers. Training and recruiting Pacific Islanders would represent a reliable and economical option to fill this upcoming labour market shortage, the report points out.
A range of labour mobility reforms and programmes for both sending and receiving countries have been proposed in the report. These include Introducing a Pacific caregiver programme to facilitate access to trained Pacific migrants to provide residential care; Reforms to the Australian Pacific Technical College (APTC) to enable better labour mobility outcomes; Australia introducing a reformed version of New Zealand’s successful Pacific Category visas; Reforming Australia’s and New Zealand’s seasonal worker programmes to reach their full potential.
It also recommends investigating new labour markets around the Pacific Rim such as in countries like Korea’s Employment Permit System for low-skilled workers which already includes Timor-Leste, which could be extended to the Pacific Island countries; Improving education and training in Pacific Island countries to avoid brain drain and increase opportunities for employment at home and abroad and promoting Pacific workers abroad, as also taking measures to mitigate any negative social outcomes associated with labour mobility.
The report that came out last month invited submissions and suggestions to the proposals.
New Zealand, Australia and Pacific Island Governments having recognised this considerable human resources potential to create wealth have now agreed to host a Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting, the first of which takes place in Christchurch next week. The inaugural will held in Christchurch next week (August 22-24), where ideas and proposals will be discussed with a view to suggesting reforms in the labour mobility regimes in both sending and receiving markets.