Vanuatu Prepares to Host Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting

16 Nov 2023

PORT VILA, Vanuatu – The Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting (PLMAM) will be held in Port Vila, Vanuatu for the very first time on 20-24 November 2023. The annual meeting, which is provided under the PACER Plus Arrangement on Labour Mobility, is touted as the pre-eminent regional forum for labour mobility in the Pacific. It brings together all key stakeholders from across the region including government officials, workers, employers, private sector, union representatives, civil society, academics and regional organisations. PLMAM 2023 is expected to attract over 300 participants to discuss topics related to the theme of "harnessing the development benefits of labour mobility" in the Pacific.

For many Pacific Island Countries, sustainable development is constrained by their smallness, remoteness from key markets, and vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change. These are often coupled by the challenges of rapid population growth local formal economies being unable to absorb the high number of school leavers each year. Labour mobility exists as a critical employment creation strategy for many of our Pacific countries.

Vanuatu is the top labour sending country for both the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) and New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) schemes and has over 10,000 PALM workers in Australia and over 6,000 in New Zealand.  The Vanuatu Commissioner for Labour, Ms. Murielle Meltenoven stated that Vanuatu's participation in labour mobility schemes have generated significant economic benefits for Vanuatu particularly through the remittances and skills acquired by workers.

"We see benefits in skills development especially around employability skills. We've received a lot of positive feedback for received from businesses around the conduct of workers including in communication, specifically customer service around servicing, and their ability to speak English. When you travel around the six provinces (in Vanuatu), you see the real positive impact within the very remote and rural communities around the new buildings, new businesses, so many banana boats which improve transportation helping many people residing in little islands to access crucial services," Commissioner Meltenoven elaborated.

But with these economic benefits, also comes negative development impacts particularly with the loss of skilled labour and increasing social problems such as broken homes and domestic violence.

"The private sector is suffering because they're losing their skilled workers, of which they have invested so much money, so much time to train up. For example, in the tourism and hospitality industry, I can see that the current services have dropped a lot, the quality is no longer there."

Vanuatu, which has been hit by three major tropical cyclones since the beginning of 2023 is also facing the impacts of the loss of able-bodied men in communities on community resilience to natural disasters. While the money from labour mobility have helped to build more cyclone-resistant housing, villages have less able-bodied men for post-cyclone recovery and rebuild.

"Now you only see old people, women and kids, who are the most vulnerable during a period of natural disaster and in the recovery stage. They (villages) don't have strong people to help for the recovery and to rebuild the community and the homes so for them the recovery will be very slow," Commissioner Meltenoven explained.

Commissioner Meltenoven believes that these negative impacts emphasise the importance of establishing conducive policies and support programmes in both labour sending and labour receiving countries.

The Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting provides a critical platform for Pacific countries to not only discuss issues but to determine policy solutions to address these issues.

For more details on PLMAM 2023, please click here.


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