Labour Mobility and Migration News

Welcome to the third edition of Devpolicy's Labour Mobility and Migration News. We have doubled our subscriptions from the first edition. Thank you to everyone who has forwarded on previous editions to colleagues and others with an interest in labour mobility and migration.

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Australia's new microstate visa off the ground
One&Only Hayman Island (One & Only Resorts/Roderick Eime/Flickr CC BY 2.0)
A brand new Australian visa for Pacific microstates announced in 2015 is off the ground. There are 28 i-Kiribati migrants currently working at the One&Only Hayman Island Resort (pictured above) with a third group of 14 set to arrive shortly. In this blog series, Henry Sherrell describes how the visa came about and the tie in with the Australian Pacific Technical College, another prong in Australia's development strategy in the Pacific. In part two, Henry interviews Caleb Jarvis from Pacific Trade & Invest about the employment perspective. PT&I played an important facilitation role, assisting the employer to sponsor the first group of microstate visa holders to work in Australia.

Mango farming in Northern Australia

Part of the rationale for the Seasonal Worker Program is the difficulties employers face when recruiting workers in regional labour markets. In this interview, Ian Quin, a mango farmer located 60kms outside Darwin, provides some perspective about these employment difficulties and highlights his experience using the Seasonal Worker Program. Ian says he only turned to the program out of sheer desperation and despite being a magnificent concept, the hiring process is worse than dismal.

Big developments in Australia and New Zealand seasonal work schemes 

The finalisation of the backpacker tax led to some positive surprises. The tax rate for backpackers has been aligned with the tax rate for seasonal workers, something we argued for in our submission on the issue. In the political back and forth, Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull argued for a fairer playing field for Pacific seasonal workers. In the process, he became the first Prime Minister to ever mention the Seasonal Worker Program! In New Zealand, the number of placements under the Recognised Seasonal Employer program has been increased to 10,500. 

Labour mobility and migration at the Australian Aid Conference 2017

The program for the Development Policy Centre's Australian Aid Conference has been released and there will be two panel sessions on labour mobility and migration. "Making migration work for development" and "Labour mobility among Australia's neighbours" will showcase a variety of migration topics, including Korea's employment permit system, Timorese workers in the United Kingdom, and the different regulatory approaches in Australia and New Zealand to tackle labour shortages. Registration details here; keynote speakers here
News, links and events
The Lowy Institute released a new report titled 'The development benefits of expanding Pacific access to Australia's labour market'. Authored by Leon Berkelmans and Devpolicy alumnus Jonathan Pryke, the report projects potential income gains from addition Pacific migration to Australia. They find allowing just one per cent of the Pacific's population to work permanently in Australia would deliver more benefit to Pacific people by 2040 than Australia's current aid program. 

A new OECD report, "Perspectives on Global Development 2017: international migration in a shifting world" finds improving international cooperation could unlock additional gains from international migration. The report suggests protection of migrants' rights, visa agreements, recruitment and remittance costs, and qualification and skills partnerships as areas for better coordination.

State governments are beginning to incorporate support mechanisms to foster additional Pacific seasonal workers. The Northern Territory Government has funded NT Farmers to employ a workforce planning coordinator to assist employers make connections into Timor-Leste under the Seasonal Worker Program. 

In September 2015, the Abbott Government in Australia committed to accepting an additional Syrian and Iraqi refugees. The process of adjusting to life in Australia can be difficult, especially finding employment, however there are also heartwarming experiences, like this story of a new Syrian migrant topping his school class after learning English by watching Parliament. 

Henry Sherrell, Peter Mares and Anna Boucher write about potential sweeping changes to Australia's visa framework. They argue additional barriers to permanent residency and citizenship, outlined in recently leaked Cabinet documents, threaten the migration traditions that helped create modern Australia.

Keeping an eye on the politics of migration, this month saw renowned business figure and former Australian of the Year Dick Smith advocate for Pauline Hanson's immigration policy of zero net migration. Needless to say, this would make additional Pacific labour mobility much more difficult. Smith has long argued for lower migration on environmental grounds and his support attracted significant attention for Hanson despite stating he does not support One Nation's proposed Muslim migration ban. Expect much more of this in 2017.
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