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Time to add value to seasonal labour scheme

One of the more significant announcements during Prime Minister John Key’s visit to three Pacific Island countries last month is that New Zealand will allow more seasonal workers from the islands to work on the country’s farms. Numbers are likely to rise from the current 8000 to a shade more than 10,000 in the next couple of years. This will further boost remittances – the single biggest revenue earner for many Pacific Island nations. New Zealand’s Recognised Employer Scheme (RSE) is an acclaimed success story that has created a win-win situation for all stakeholders. Launched in a small way in 2007, the scheme has grown from strength to strength. It has been studied in several countries around the world as a model scheme in seasonal migration, contributing to economic development in both source and host countries. One of the biggest impediments in the way of regional seasonal migration schemes all over the world is the fear of illegal immigration – the strong possibility of workers simply disappearing into the countries at the end of their visa duration to become illegal over stayers. However, the New Zealand experience has proved otherwise, mainly because of the way it has been designed, especially with the intention to minimise such eventualities. To quote from a World Bank commissioned study of the RSE scheme conducted by the University of Waikato: “The design features of the programme and the low rate of overstaying have already led to this policy being heralded as international best practice. The large development impacts seen here should further foster the case for other countries to consider similar policies.” This is nothing short of an expert endorsement of the scheme for implementation elsewhere.

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