Migration and Labour Mobility

Pacific Seasonal worker. Image: DFAT Flickr

The Pacific migration project focuses on various types of temporary and permanent migration. All subprojects have a focus on economic, cultural, political and social impacts. They examine sports migration, temporary labour migration and permanent migration. Pacific migration to Aotearoa/NZ and Australia is not new. However, new migration pathways have enabled new opportunities as a response to political and economic needs. Nonetheless, the intended and unintended consequences of these need to be documented in order to understand the impacts on both receiving and sending countries, to measure the intended development outcomes. Our research aims at addressing some of these impacts.

Siaosi Gavet is undertaking research examining relocation systems within Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) for Pasifika people from Aotearoa/NZ. He engages with their experiences to assess the importance of wellness and broader support systems.

Temporary migration labour schemes have been the primary focus of the project. Dr Rochelle-lee Bailey has been conducting ethnographical research since 2007 in Aotearoa/NZ’s Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE) and the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility schemes. Her current projects are:

  • Longitudinal study 2007-now
  • Long-term impacts on children of seasonal workers
  • Welfare models for seasonal workers and families
  • Reintegration
  • The culture of migration – children following parents into RSE and PALM
  • Material and Social remittances
  • Health care access for seasonal workers
  • Gendered participation in Vanuatu’s provinces- demography study.

Lindy Kanan and Dr Judy Putt conducted a research project in 2022 which sought to investigate the safety and wellbeing experiences of Pacific Islanders working in Australia under the PALM scheme. The study involved consultations and interviews with more than 100 stakeholders in five locations in Australia and an online survey of more than 300 PALM scheme workers. A report of the project’s findings will be released shortly.

Telusa Tu’i’onetoa’s PhD research examines disruptions to Tongan households that participate in Australia’s Seasonal Worker’s Programme (SWP) and to analyse changes to care arrangements within Tongan households.

Natasha Turia-Moka’s PhD research explores labour mobility governance arrangements in three districts in Papua New Guinea. It aims to gain a rich understanding of how Papua New Guinea’s decentralised governance arrangements at sub-national level governments, and the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) and Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) schemes cooperatively work together to increase the number of Papua New Guineans working in these schemes.

Dr Rochelle-lee Bailey’s previous work has examined permanent Pacific migration to Aotearoa/NZ and its generational impacts. The two main streams of permanent migration examined were 1) the Pacific diaspora in Aotearoa/NZ and Australia and 2) Australia’s newly introduced Pacific Engagement Visa (PEV), which is modelled on Aotearoa/NZ’s Pacific Access Category Visa (PAC): with this latter category the focus is on the support structures in place for migrants before and upon arrival.

Cover of In Brief 2021/18 Kiribati and Climate Displacement: How the Pacific Engagement Visa can help

IB 2022/18 Kiribati and Climate Displacement: How the Pacific Engagement Visa can help

The introduction of Australia’s Pacific Engagement Visa (PEV) represents a new era for Pacific migration. Announced in May 2022, the PEV will provide a new climate security pathway for small islands. However, it is...

Cover of Discussion Paper 2022/01 Managing Worker Wellbeing during COVID-19: Pacific Seasonal Workers in Australia and New Zealand

DP 2022/01 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...

Cover of PB 2021/01 The Development Benefits of Investing in Training Seasonal Workers

PB 2021/01 The Development Benefits of Investing in Training Seasonal Workers

Since the introduction of the Seasonal Worker Program there has been a tendency by the majority of government stakeholders to focus on the development benefits possible through financial remittances made by...

Cover of Discussion Paper 2021/02 Leftemap olgeta: Seasonal Work, Women and Leadership

DP 2021/02 Leftemap olgeta: Seasonal Work, Women and Leadership

The potential for seasonal work opportunities in Australia and New Zealand to influence attitudes towards gender relations in Pacific Island countries has been the subject of interest by policymakers, employers and...

WP 2020/02 Health Care Management in Australia’s and New Zealand’s Seasonal Worker Schemes

Globally, it is estimated that there are over 164 million labour migrants, many of whom are temporary migrants choosing overseas labour mobility options as a way to improve livelihoods for their families and...

In Brief

IB 2018/24 Suitable Accommodation for Seasonal Worker Programs

This In Brief looks at some of the challenges as well as changes that have recently occurred in relation to accommodation standards in New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE) and argues that such...

In Brief

IB 2018/22 Ni-Vanuatu in Australia and New Zealand’s Labour Mobility Schemes: An Examination of Provinces

This In Brief discusses the demographic study undertaken in July 2018 by Department of Pacific Affairs (DPA), in collaboration with the Vanuatu Department of Labour and Employment Services (ESU). The study focuses on...

SSGM In Brief

IB2017/21 Temporary Labour Schemes, the New Avenue of Social Mobility: Case Study Vanuatu

Since the establishment of Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) in 2012, the number of workers from Vanuatu has increased significantly from 119 to 1533. It has been established that labour mobility improves...

SSGM In Brief

IB2017/15 Evolving Labour Mobility Relationships through Mutual Cultural Understandings

As a result of New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, cross-cultural encounters have transcended international boundaries, providing participants an understanding of each other’s significant...

SSGM In Brief

IB2016/23 Labour Mobility Support Networks — ‘It’s Not Just a Seasonal Thing’

This In Brief highlights local ni-Vanuatu support structures initiated through workers’ participation in Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) and New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (RSE). It draws...

New Responses to Natural Disasters through Seasonal Labour Mobility Programs

This In Brief discusses how recent labour mobility policies can and have enabled contributions for immediate and mid- to long-term recoveries from natural disasters. We draw on three main examples of responses. First...

SSGM In Brief

Pacific Labour Mobility: Removing the Gender Blinkers

To date, women’s participation in the SWP and New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme has been low (Bailey 2014; Chattier 2015). Increasing women’s participation in these schemes is crucial if...


Using Material Remittances from Labour Schemes for Social and Economic Development: Case Study Vanuatu

Millions of dollars are remitted each year to Pacific island states via seasonal workers participating in Australia's Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) and New Z


The Labour Force Behind New Zealand's Increased Productivity in the Horticulture and Viticulture Sectors

During the 2014 Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) conference, New Zealand Immigration Minister, Michael Woodhouse, announced that the government would incre


Pacific Labour Mobility & Australia's Seasonal Worker Program: Opportunities, Impediments and Potential

This In Brief is the first of a series on Pacific labour mobility.

SSGM In Brief

Labour Mobility and Solomon Islands Development

Solomon Islanders have a significant history of labour mobility and diaspora.

SSGM In Brief

The Australian Seasonal Worker Program: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

In this In-Brief, Pyone Myat Thu and Roannie Ng Shiu argue that cultural awareness training has the potential to boost productivity in the Australian Seasona

Bailey, R. 2023 Material Remittances in the Context of Seasonal Work. Social and Economic Change in Vanuatu in “Remittances as Social Practices and Agents of Change. The Future of Transnational Society” Accepted in 2020 (Forthcoming June 2023)

Bailey, R. Australia’s Pacific engagement Visa: building support infrastructure https://devpolicy.org/australias-pacific-engagement-visa-building-suppor…

Ng Shiu, R. and Bailey, R. 2023 New Voyages since Independence: 1960s onwards in The Cambridge History of The Pacific Ocean VII- The Pacific Ocean since 1800 pp.752-775. Cambridge University Press.

Dr Rochelle-Lee Bailey

Rochelle Bailey is a Research Fellow with the Department of Pacific Affairs, at The Australian National University. She is a political anthropologist who has conducted ethnographical fieldwork in...

George Gavet

George was born and raised in Aotearoa New Zealand born of parents from Samoa. He graduated with an MA(Hons) in Youth Development at AUT University. He has been involved with youth, predominantly...

Telusa Tu'i'onetoa

Telusa Tu'i'onetoa

Telusa started her PhD candidacy with the Crawford School of Public Policy in March 2019 but later transferred to DPA in March 2020. She graduated from the University of the South Pacific in 1999...

Natasha Turia-Moka

Natasha Turia-Moka

Natasha’s research will focus on how Papua New Guinea’s decentralised recruitment process works with best practice regulated temporary migration schemes – Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (...

Dr Rochelle-lee Bailey
Research Fellow, Director of Studies, Department of Pacific Affairs

Siaosi Gavet
PhD candidate, Department of Pacific Affairs

Telusa Tu’i’onetoa
PhD candidate, Department of Pacific Affairs

Natasha Turia-Moka
PhD candidate, Department of Pacific Affairs

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