Reintegrating Seasonal Workers’ Skills into Agriculture

Participants in yesterday’s Reintegration Framework for Agriculture Workers Workshop. Photo: Elizabeth Graham

The Government is looking at developing a framework to invest in the knowledge and skills of Ni-Vanuatu seasonal workers into the agriculture sector.

Once complete, this framework will be endorsed by the Council of Ministers (COM) for implementation.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB) brought stakeholder in the first consultation held yesterday (Tuesday) to set out the Reintegration Framework for Agricultural Workers.

Key sectors of the government such as Agriculture and Education are stressing concerns that the demand of labour mobility is leading to loss of workers as the wage is much better than the one they are getting at work.

Decreased in agricultural productivity and loss of labour force in rural areas are some other impacts of labour mobility in the agriculture sector.

Vanuatu has approximately 10,000 workers in the current labour mobility schemes, which is the highest number of workers from any Pacific country. The majority of these workers are employed in the agriculture sector.

The Acting Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of MALFFB, Matai Seremaiah, stressed that the increasing demand of the labour mobility poses a number of opportunities and challenges to the agriculture sector.

“Both New Zealand and Australia are increasing the scope and size of their programs. There are also indications that the United States of America (USA) is interested in developing a labor mobility scheme for the Pacific, starting at 10,000 workers a year.

“However, the focus has largely been on the needs of the receiving countries.

“Vanuatu will soon be graduating from the LDC Category status but face challenges in building up its economy with a reduced labour force.

“The MALFFB has been moving forward with strategies to address labour shortages, but we want to create better pathways for investment into the agriculture sector.

“This includes creating business models and providing comprehensive market information to illustrate to returning workers,” he said.

Minister Seremaiah said an objective of the Overarching Productive Sector Policy and the Agriculture Sector Policy is to encourage skilled productive sector workers to invest their knowledge and capital into the productive sector upon return to Vanuatu.

New Zealand High Commissioner to Vanuatu, Jonathan Schwass, said the labour mobility scheme is vital for the relationship and economy of Vanuatu and New Zealand including Australia.

Commissioner of Labour, Murielle Meltenoven, gave an overview of the Labor Mobility Schemes, outlining the opportunities and challenges.

Director of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Antoine Ravo, provided some recommendations on how to address the labour mobility issues concerning the agricultural sector.

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