Temporary migration programme is a winner all round

Temporary Migration Programme is a Winner

“The survival of small island developing States is firmly rooted in their human resources and cultural heritage, which are their most significant assets; those assets are under severe stress and all efforts must be taken to ensure the central position of people in the process of sustainable development.”

Article 1.1, Barbados Declaration, United Nations Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, 1994.


A new government programme designed to bring seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands to work in horticulture and viticulture for up to seven months per year is proving a win-win initiative for both New Zealand and the Pacific source countries.

With funding from the World Bank and the Department of Labour, Professor John Gibson, Halahingano Rohorua and the World Bank’s David McKenzie are researching the impact of the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Programme, and their initial findings show that the scheme is succeeding in targeting poorer, less well-educated migrants from Tonga.

The RSE draws 5,000 temporary migrants a year from 11 eligible Pacific Forum member countries. Based on the results of household surveys in both Tonga and Vanuatu, the researchers found that males with lower levels of education are more likely to apply for RSE than those with more education. In Tonga, they found RSE migrants were also more likely to be less well-off.

There’s strong international interest in temporary migration programmes like the RSE as a way to relieve labour shortages in developed countries and aid development in poorer countries where population growth often greatly exceeds formal employment growth. Such schemes allow workers to send remittances home and gain new skills without the source country losing the worker permanently and the host country facing long-term assimilation costs.

The next stage of the research will look at the developmental impacts of temporary migration in the labour source countries.

External funding gratefully acknowledged: World Bank, Department of Labour.


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