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Tonga – Temporary seasonal work boosting economy

03 February 2014

Temporary seasonal work schemes for Pacific Island countries in New Zealand and Australia are bringing substantial economic and social benefits to Tonga, according to Lopeti Senituli the Chief Executive of Tonga’s Ministry of International Affairs, reports radionz.co.nz.

New Zealand’s long running ‘Recognised Seasonal Employment’ scheme has given work to 1,600 Tongans in the past year, and another 1,200 have been employed under a more recently established scheme in Australia.

Mr Senituli commented on the Radio NZ programme: “You see the tangible rewards in terms of the physical transformation of the homes and the houses of the workers. You see an increase in their contribution to family and church obligations and overall there is an improvement in the economic situation of the families.”

“We are looking at approximately TOP 40 million (USD 21.2 million) in terms of the total earnings of the workers and roughly between TOP 18 million (USD 9.5 million) and TOP 20 million (USD 10.6 million) that is actually remitted or returned in kind to Tonga after their expenses, the workers’ expenses are paid; in terms of their airfares, the accommodation, their sustenance. So it is quite a substantial stream of new foreign income.”

“[The additional money coming in is] definitely one of the new streams of foreign income to the country, which the government is keen to continuing flowing and in fact we would like to increase the numbers of workers. We have at the moment approximately 1,500 workers on our register of people who want to go. There is also pressure or requests from the Ha'apai Islands, which have recently been struck by Tropical Cyclone Ian for placements for workers from the Pacific Islands affected and overall it is the government's intention to do its best to increase the numbers from Tonga.”

“We are very appreciative that this opportunity exists and I must say that over the years there has been a very healthy relationship develop between the workers and the specific families of the people that own and work in the various farms and orchards, so it is not only about workers packing their bags every six months to come over, it is a reciprocal relationship. We see the owners and their families from New Zealand coming here and visiting the families of their workers. You know you have families who name their kids after their friends in New Zealand who they work for or after their bosses. That is not a simple thing to do, to choose to name your child after one of your bosses on the farm in New Zealand. It is major commitment and it just goes to show the seasonal work programme is much more than a seasonal work programme. It is a partnership between New Zealand families and Tongan families,” Mr Senituli concluded. 

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