Fiji delegation participates in Pacific labour mobility annual meeting

Recruitment Solomon Islands. Picture: RNZ

HONIARA, 17 OCTOBER 2018 (DFAT) – Fijian officials participated in the Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting held in Honiara, Solomon Islands, last week.

Labour mobility, where Pacific workers travel to Australia and New Zealand to fill critical labour shortages, is transforming both sending and receiving countries.

Deputy Secretary Vilimone Baledrokadroka, from the Ministry of Employment Productivity and Industrial Relations, led the delegation.

It was the first time the annual meeting was hosted by a Pacific Island nation, and the Solomon Islands’ Government has done an excellent job bringing together over 150 delegates from across the region to accelerate labour mobility programmes. Over three days, senior officials, employers of seasonal workers in New Zealand and Australia, employee agents, media and academics considered how the region can work together to maximise the benefits of labour mobility programmes.

The meeting was formally opened by Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Rick Houenipwela, who mapped out an ambitious agenda for labour mobility across the region. He said Solomon Islands wanted to work with all Pacific Island countries to increase participation in labour mobility programmes “for the benefit of current and future generations of our people, our countries and our region.”

Australian National University academic, Professor Richard Curtain, presented on the potential growth in labour mobility programmes. Dr Curtain highlighted the growth of the number of Pacific workers travelling to Australia and New Zealand over the past five years. If sending and receiving countries improve efforts to identify, select, mobilise and receive workers, further rapid growth in participation could be realised.

The Australian Government delegation, headed by Assistant Secretary Beth Delaney, said “Australia is strongly committed to expanding labour mobility in the Pacific. It represents a win-win for Australia and our Pacific partners.”

In the last year, Fiji has sent 250 workers to Australia under the Seasonal Worker Programme. They have worked on farms right across Australia from picking bananas in Queensland to citrus in South Australia. Fijian workers have used the money they saved working in Australia to invest in the future of their families. With support from the Fijian Government, they do a range of activities, from opening small businesses and purchase boats to buying land and building homes.

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