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PRESS RELEASE March 28, 2018

Pacific Seasonal Worker Programme set for Bigger Impact

World Bank outlines recommendations for growth of seasonal worker benefits

CANBERRA, March 28, 2018 – A new report has found that Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program continues to deliver significant advantages, not just for Australian farmers, but for the workers, households, and com­munities of participating Pacific Island countries, yet outlines that more can be done to increase the benefits flowing through the region.

The report undertaken by the World Bank, Maximizing the Development Impacts from Temporary Migration: Recommendations for Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme, highlights the success of the program in enabling participating workers across the Pacific region to more than quadruple their incomes, with workers from Tonga increasing their incomes by a factor of more than six. Over a six-month employment period, participating Pacific Islanders remit an average of AU$2,200 while in Australia, and transfer AU$6,650 in savings home at the end of their stay.

I welcome the World Bank’s report on the Australian government’s Seasonal Worker Programme, which will help inform our ongoing labour mobility work including the establishment of our new Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme,” said Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Minister for International Development and the Pacific. “As we identified in our 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, increased opportunities for labour mobility from the Pacific to Australia will help to strengthen economic resilience and contribute to stability and prosperity in our region.”

At the household level, the report found that money earnt through the Seasonal Worker Programme is most often saved or spent on home improvements and the accumulation of major assets, including farm equipment, cars and pickup trucks. Participants from Tonga were also more likely to have children enrolled in school.  

Despite the positive impacts already felt in the Pacific, the report outlines a series of 11 policy recommendations, which would lead to greater benefits for Pacific Island participants, including:

  • Enhancing opportunities for countries with low programme participation rates, through investment in additional resources to strengthen the sending capacity of countries including Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands.
  • Increasing female participation in the programme, by improving education on the programme within Pacific Island countries, and expanding into other industries that would support greater participation rates among women.
  • Providing tailored financial advice and savings options for workers upon their return home, through education and information on options available to increase the benefit from income earned.
  • Addressing issues regarding competing labour programs, including through providing an equal footing with the Working Holiday Maker Visa programme by revising or eliminating the second-year Working Holiday visa (subclass 417) extension.

“Labour mobility schemes like the Seasonal Worker Programme are increasingly important in the economic and social development of countries across the Pacific region,” said Michel Kerf, Country Director for Papua New Guinea and Pacific Islands. “We look forward to continuing our work with the Australian government in this transformative area, to find ways in which the benefits for sending and receiving countries can be further boosted.”

Maximizing the Development Impacts from Temporary Migration: Recommendations for Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme has been produced by the World Bank with the support of the Australian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

View the full report here.


Benjamin Brighouse
+61 433 028 405