Strengthening Capacity to Implement Australia's Seasonal Worker Program in Papua New Guinea and Nauru

Seasonal migration schemes, currently in place between selected Pacific Island countries and Australia and New Zealand respectively, are a valuable opportunity for Pacific Island countries to address unemployment, improve skills development amongst their citizens and stimulate growth through remitted earnings. Given that the schemes target unskilled workers, these programs have the potential to achieve developmental impacts for both workers and the communities and provinces they come from. Papua New Guinea and Nauru, as more recent entrants to the Australian Seasonal Worker Program, face various challenges in ensuring that institutions are in place to market, prepare and reintegrate seasonal workers. This project was aimed at addressing these challenges, helping to ensure that workers are prepared and protected to participate in seasonal migration, and improve management and visibility of the schemes so that employers are more likely to engage workers in future.

Development objectives

The Australian scheme, operating as a pilot program from 2009 to 2012, became a permanent scheme in 2012, with Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) established with nine participating countries (Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu).

As at mid 2014, two years after the scheme was officially rolled out, around 3487 places have been used, with the vast majority in horticulture sector (though places as available, on a pilot basis in the . A smallsectors of accommodation, aquaculture, cane and cotton). During 2014-2015, the number of expected placed in the horticultural sector will rise to 3250, increasing again from 2015-16 to 4250 places.

Both Nauru and Papua New Guinea are recent entrants to the Australian Seasonal Worker ProgramSeasonal migration has been earmarked by both countries as an important development strategy – in Papua New Guinea, the strategy is hoped to ameliorate urban drift and promote rural development; in Nauru, it is hoped to lead to remittances as a way of stimulating the economy (as noted in the National Development Strategy for Nauru).

Immediate Objectives

This project aims to address three key challenges faced by the two participating countries. First, the absence of a clear regulatory and institutional framework in the two countries to ensure efficient recruitment, training and sending of workers. Second, rights protection for workers, and the institutional capacity to give effect to such framework. Furthermore, a clear communication and marketing strategy to promote the scheme both domestically in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, and international to employers in Australia.

Objective 1: Improve the capacity of the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Government of Nauru to formulate and implement policies to facilitate implementation of the Seasonal Worker Programs

Assessment reports, outlining each countries’ legislation, policies and procedures for managing migration were developed, along with recommendations, in order to provide a necessary baseline and foundation from which to assess the barriers and constraints to more effective migration management, and to plan the most critically needed interventions under the project.

Objective 2: Develop and put in place systems and mechanisms for recruitment and preparation of seasonal workers

A number of initiatives were undertaken in order to improve the functioning of the government departments managing the seasonal worker program. In Papua New Guinea, a Standard Operating Procedures Manual for all staff involved in managing the seasonal worker programs was developed and piloted in order to provide staff with clear instructions on their duties and responsibilities for ensuring effective recruitment, and protection of workers. In Nauru, technical advice was provided on the establishment of an inter-agency group to manage seasonal worker programs.

Two sets of training packages were developed under the project, in line with each of the countries’ priorities. In Papua New Guinea, business start-up trainings were developed and piloted, whilst in Nauru, materials and training on participatory methodology in pre-departure training were prioritized.

Objective 3: Increase visibility of Papua New Guinean and Nauruan, to Australian employers (to raise uptake of these workers in the Program)

A marketing and communication strategy report analysing marketing development in the Seasonal Worker Program was carried out for both countries, collecting valuable information on what influenced demand by employers. Based on the recommendations, marketing materials were developed by the Government of Nauru for dissemination through a website, as well as marketing tours. .

For further information please contact:

Ms Sophia Kagan
Labour Migration Technical Officer
ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries
Suva, Fiji