Labour Migration in Papua New Guinea

Labour migration into and out of Papua New Guinea has been historically low, but immigration is increasingly gaining pace as a result of skills shortages in its labour market.

Project documentation | 14 April 2015
Although Papua New Guinea is the fourth largest birthplace for people living overseas from the Pacific Islands (40,400 PNG-born residents in other countries in 2013), it is very small by comparison with the country’s resident population of over 7 million, with a per capita diaspora at just under six migrants per 1,000 population. Papua New Guinea is as much a country of immigration as emigration and a crude net migration rate of zero is recorded in the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) population estimates for 2013. However, this should not be interpreted as an indication of limited population movement across Papua New Guinea’s borders each year. PNG’s Tourism Promotion Authority reported that there were over 164,000 arrivals on short-term visitor visas in 2011 – 44 per cent for business purposes and a further 28 per cent for employment-related reasons; and PNG’s dynamic extractive resources industry sector attracts a significant number of skilled migrants and short-term advisers, many from neighbouring countries in Asia. Business-related activities rather than holidays are the primary reasons for flows of people into the country, entrepreneurs, skilled technicians and professionals from neighbouring APEC countries are major contributors to these flows in the early 21st century.

The number of Papua New Guineans travelling overseas for work is not well researched. One of the key destinations for Papua New Guinean workers is Australia and during the year ended June 2012 there were 800 workers on temporary work visas (out of a total of 38,400 arrivals born in PNG).

A very small number of workers participate in the Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program (a total of 47 visas were issued as at December 2011), as well as the New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

The ILO (through a concluded Australian Aid-funded project) worked with the PNG Department of Labour and Industrial Relations to strengthen the capacity to manage seasonal migration.

Further information on the project can be found here.