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Managing Worker Wellbeing during COVID-19: Pacific Seasonal Workers in Australia and New Zealand
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic early in 2020 and associated border closures worldwide were accompanied by unprecedented disruptions in the flows of temporary labour between sending and destination countries. As with elsewhere in the world, in the Pacific region, countries including Australia and New Zealand closed their international borders, bringing an abrupt end to existing patterns of mobility.
Measures such as border closures, quarantine and travel restrictions enacted by countries to control COVID-19 transmission disrupted transport networks and people’s ability to move. For some migrant workers, border closures meant they were unable to enter a destination country for work. For others, travel restrictions meant they were stuck in a host country and unable to return home. The implications for migrant workers and their families have been significant, as many rely on incomes earned overseas and remittances to support livelihoods at home (Moroz et al. 2020).
This paper focuses on the disruptions to the flows of seasonal labour between Pacific island countries (and Timor-Leste) and Australia and New Zealand under their respective seasonal work schemes during 2020 and the first half of 2021. New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, introduced in 2007, and Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP), implemented in 2012, allow workers from eligible Pacific island countries to enter each year for short-term seasonal work, mainly in horticulture.