Labour Mobility and Migration News

Welcome to the first edition of Devpolicy's Labour Mobility and Migration News for 2017. Thank you to everyone who forwarded on an email or provided useful feedback in 2016. In what promises to be difficult times for migration, we look forward to promoting discussion, disseminating our research and informing policy with evidence. 

If you have received this from a friend, you can subscribe here. If you have any feedback, news or suggestions, please email We’re always looking for blog contributions and would welcome submissions from across the world on labour mobility and migration.

The Seasonal Worker Program: Who is coming to Australia?
Barossa Valley winery pathway (Flickr/Jocelyn Kinghorn CC BY NC 2.0)

The Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) saw near 50 per cent growth in 2015-16, demonstrating the program is maturing since its formalisation in 2012 and carving out an important space within Australia’s broader migration framework. Now thanks to the Department of Employment and Department of Immigration and Border Protection, up-to-date visa data sheds light on who exactly is coming to Australia under the program. Henry Sherrell explores where Australia's seasonal workers are coming from, the gender of participating workers and what proportion of workers return over multiple seasons. Tonga remains the number one country of origin but Vanuatu shows the most impressive growth over the past four years. There are a couple of interesting points made in the comments section from readers Bryant Allen, Richard Curtain and Tess Newton Cain. 

Australian immigration in the Trump era

President Trump's new immigration orders may reset immigration norms and trends. When you throw in the uncertainty from Brexit, Australia is well placed to capitalise writes Henry Sherrell for the Lowy Institute's Interpreter blog. Contrasting Australia as place of welcome to highly skilled migrants as well as better using immigration policy to develop bilateral and regional relationships in the Asia-Pacific are two examples of how Australia could showcase leadership on immigration. 

First in class: PNG student migration to Australia

As discussed last year on the blog, international student migration to Australia from the Pacific is flat over the past decade with the exception of Papua New Guinea. In this blog, Stephen Howes and Henry Sherrell dive into the composition of PNG student migration to Australia. They find PNG is an outlier in the number of school aged children coming to Australia. For a country with a small diaspora and low overall rates of emigration, there are a comparatively large number of children going to school in Australia: The proportion of school children as a total of all international students - 34 per cent - is ten times higher than the average for all countries. Henry Sherrell spoke to the ABC's Pacific Beat radio program to discuss this phenomenon. 

How recruitment and selection can shape seasonal work programs: Comparing Fiji and Papua New Guinea

How workers are recruited for Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) and New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme plays an important part in determining how many workers participate from each country. In this post, Richard Curtain and Henry Sherrell showcase the different experience of recruitment and worker selection in Fiji and Papua New Guinea. Despite only recently joining these programs, Fiji was able to quickly build up participating worker numbers even in the face of initial setbacks. Unfortunately, PNG has been beset by a failure to get worker participation off the ground. Inducing direct employer recruitment may help promote more opportunities. 

Lessons from across the ditch? 

The Northern Territory ABC Country Hour's Lisa Herbert has produced an in-depth feature examining Australia's farm labour woes and comparing them to what has occurred in New Zealand. Henry Sherrell provided comment for the piece, noting part of New Zealand's success has been to build a bottom up approach to the horticultural labour market compared to a more top-down approach in Australia. Research using a comparison of Australia and New Zealand's migration policies in horticultural labour markets is being finalised and will be published as a working paper by the Development Policy Centre shortly.
News, links and events
Dani Rodrik has published an excellent working paper [.pdf]: "Is Global Equality the Enemy of National Equality?" On his blog, Rodrik writes: "Relaxing restrictions on cross-border labor mobility would have an even stronger positive effect on global inequality, at the cost of adverse effects at the lower end of labor markets in rich economies. On the other hand, international labor mobility has some advantages compared to further liberalizing international trade in goods."

The OECD Development Matters blog has a post by Cécile Riallant, a program manager with the UN Migration and Development Initiative on how migration is an overlooked tool for local development. 

The Center for Global Development's Michael Clemens and Hannah Postal have published new research examining Haitian workers in the United States. They find short-term overseas work in the United States "benefits Haitian families much more directly, and to a dramatically greater extent, than more traditional forms of assistance—raising workers’ current earnings on average by multiple of 15."

Tim Huxley over at the Lowy Interpreter wrote a fascinating piece last December titled, "Dealing with xenophobic nationalism: Lessons from Singapore". Timely for 2017.

Finally, the Australian National University's Vice Chancellor wrote earlier this week about his "alarm and deep concern" at recent developments in U.S. immigration policy. Here at the Development Policy Centre, we support the Vice Chancellor's statement. We will continue to engage with people across the world without prejudice. 
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