Editorial Comment: Making a commitment

Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources Filimoni Vosarogo . Picture: FILE

Acting Employment Minister Filimoni Vosarogo made a statement that should attract attention for those leaving our shores for work abroad. Remember your children, he told 54 Fijians who left for work in Marlborough, New Zealand this week.

They were headed to work for Alapa Viticultural Services Ltd under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme. It was important, Mr Vosarogo said, that they put their family’s needs above everything else while working in New Zealand.

“The benefit of this program you are about to embark on are many as you may have heard, seen, and quite possibly read stories of people who have returned from Australia and New Zealand.

“On how they have been able to improve their lives here at home and improve the standard of living for themselves and family. “But it requires sacrifice from you as workers and I ask that you take this as a challenge.

“So if people have had good stories to tell, have been able to do it, I challenge you that you can also do the same.”

What Mr Vosarogo says will touch the very heart of those who place great value on the family structure. It means everything. Then we will have to consider the fact that many Fijians leaving our shores for work under schemes designed for Pacific people, are actually travelling abroad for the very first time.

The trip will be an eye-opener for starters.

Without a doubt, seasonal job schemes that enable Pacific workers to earn money in Australia and New Zealand are helping families back at home. They are able to earn an income and contribute positively to the needs of their families back on the islands. In fact the schemes empower Pacific Islanders.

They allow them to earn higher wages than what they would normally receive back home. Now that’s a positive factor. Then we have to consider the roll-on impact of this income flowing back home, and what it means for the communities.

However, in saying that, we are also reminded about the negative impact on industries back in Fiji for instance. This week we had Castaway Island Resort general manager Steven Andrews urging Government to put in place a system where the industry could pull workers from.

He said there was an urgent need to review pays and benefits to entice hospitality workers to remain in the country. His sentiments came in the wake of revelations that the hotel industry has lost up to 10,000 workers to the overseas market, at a time when there has been an upsurge in tourist arrivals.

But back on the family front, we realise the importance of placing value on this, and hope those intending to leave for better opportunities under the work schemes, will reflect on Mr Vosarogo’s views. That would be a major challenge for anyone. There is the distance to consider, time away from family, and working and living in a new country.

Then there is the economic factor, especially the huge gains in terms of financial rewards for those who work hard. It will certainly take courage, commitment and a lot of sacrifices to stay on course. It can be done though. Many Fijians stand as testimony to this!

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