3 Oct 2007

Tonga urges seaonsal worker flexibility at UN general assembly

3:30 pm on 3 October 2007

Tonga's foreign minister has urged wealthy countries facing labour shortages to be more flexible with seasonal worker schemes.

Speaking to the UN General Assembly, Sonatane Taumoepeau-Tupou said these countries need to craft their policies towards workers from poorer states if they want to fill those labour gaps.

Tonga sees labour mobility as a vehicle for overcoming the lack of economic development and employment opportunities in many island States.

Mr Taumoepeau-Tupou referred to New Zealand's recent move to start a seasonal labour programme for agricultural workers from five countries in the Pacific, including Tonga.

He said this was an important and positive first step towards wider acceptance of this type of model by developed countries.

The minister also noted that Tonga this year passed laws allowing dual citizenship, in recognition of the large numbers of Tongans who live overseas but still contribute to the economy.