14 Jan 2020

Samoa losing skilled labour to seasonal worker schemes - business group

8:14 pm on 14 January 2020

Samoa's government has been warned it needs to tighten its recruitment of seasonal workers because the country is losing skilled labour.

The warning came from the head of the local Association of Manufacturers and Exporters, Tagaloa Eddie Wilson.

There are currently 55 Samoans working in Australia as part of the Seasonal Worker Program while there are around 2,500 in New Zealand with the Recognised Employer Scheme or RSE.

But Tagaloa said there were cases of the wrong people being signed up to the programmes

"We have an understanding with our government that the people that they select for the RSE programme are people that are unemployed themselves in Samoa," he said.

"However we are continuing to experience, across the private sector, that we are beginning to lose the skilled workers to the RSE programmes."

Tagaloa said he believed the seasonal employment schemes needed to be administered better if Samoa was to benefit fully.

Pacific Islander diong seasonal work under the RSE scheme in Hawke's Bay.

Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

The programme should be restricted to unemployed Samoans or school leavers, he said.

Tagaloa said this would create a "win-win" situation, with overseas employers receiving much-needed labour and the workers gaining experience.

"The unskilled workers will then get a skill and then when they come back they can then be a source of skilled supply labour for the private sector but not the other way around.

"It has an impact on the private sector when we start to lose the medium management or the semi-skilled workers to the RSE programme."

Tagaloa said his association supported the programmes and he thought they were generally positive but they needed to be administered more carefully.

The head of the Labour Export and Employment Division at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour said the concerns were legitimate.

But Lemalu Nele Leilua told the Samoa Observer newspaper that finding the balance would be difficult because seasonal work offered far more attractive financial benefits than what was locally available.

"We can't stop the scheme, it's growing and labour mobility is here to stay.

"So seeking solutions is the way to go about it. The question is what can they do about it and what can we all do about it?" said Lemalu.

This year Samoa raised the minimum wage by 70 Sene to three Samoa Tala an hour.

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