13 Jun 2008

RSE scheme shown to be having impact in poorer communities in Tonga

7:21 pm on 13 June 2008

New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Employer, or RSE, scheme is making the right connections, but it is not yet clear if it is making the island economies richer.

The RSE scheme, launched just over a year ago, allows up to 5000 seasonal workers to be employed each year to plant, maintain, harvest and pack crops in New Zealand.

It aims to both solve a labour shortage in New Zealand and help the development of the island countries with the workers remitting some of their earnings home and also gaining work experience.

The PACNEWS agency reports that a survey of 450 households in Tonga and Vanuatu by John Gibson and Halahingano Rohorua of Waikato Management School and David McKenzie of the World Bank has found the programme has succeeded in reaching poorer, less well-educated migrants from Tonga.

They say their research in Vanuatu shows no substantial difference in wealth between RSE migrants and other groups, while in both Tonga and Vanuatu males with lower levels of education are more likely to apply for RSE than are those with more education.

And Professor Gibson says that's good news for the potential of the initiative to improve development outcomes in the Pacific.

Dr McKenzie says the RSE attracts Tongans who are significantly poorer, less likely to be in current employment and have lower schooling than those likely to apply for other migration options.

However, he says there are barriers, such as high airfares, to participating in the RSE and the scheme requires substantial effort by those involved.