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First round of seasonal workers finishes in Australia

Tomas Martin Ernst's picture

I've just returned from country Australia evaluating the impact of one of the World Bank's (WB) recent development programs in the region. A WB initiative on the ground in Australia? What is the relationship between country Australia and the Bank's mandate of a world free of poverty?

Photo © Tomas Ernst/World Bank

Following several year's of research and advocacy, the Australian government opened its borders this year to the short-term supply of labour from the Pacific Islands (PIs). Evidence from New Zealand showed that when temporary labour mobility programs are well managed - with the appropriate level of monitoring to prevent worker exploitation and with the right incentives to minimize overstaying - the scheme is win-win for growers and PI workers. Growers enjoy a steady, reliable source of labour and PI workers receive income at least 4-5 times the GDP/capita of their home country.

My colleague Nathan and I travelled to Griffith, New South Wales where six ni-Vanuatu workers were preparing to head home following a six-month assignment picking, pruning and packing fruit. All workers reported a significantly improved financial position, with the majority sending regular remittances to their family members and local villages. In terms of skills acquisition, the training workers received on farms in Australia will benefit them when they return home to agriculture dependant economies of the South Pacific.

The Australian Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme is still in its infancy. During this critical stage it's imperative that the World Bank remain engaged, including strengthening the institutional arrangements in WB-client countries such as Vanuatu around recruitment and pre-departure training. It also means working closely with the Australian government to exchange knowledge on best practices from similar temporary labour mobility programs around the globe.

The hope for next year is to expand the current number of growers participating in the scheme so that more Pacific Islanders will benefit.