Cabinet Limits Seasonal Worker Opportunities to Ensure Enough People Remain to Serve Communities in Samoa

Image: NZ RSE.

22 Sept 2022 Apia Samoa. In a special announcement following this week’s meeting of Cabinet, Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister confirmed a decision to limit the seasonal workers programme to New Zealand and Australia.

The reason given by Hon Tuala Tevaga Ponifasio is to ensure enough people stay in Samoa to serve in the community – families, villages, and the church. Often referred to as aiga, nuu ma ekalesia..

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Hon Tuala Tevaga Ponifasio said the decision to limit seasonal workers to one intake per month for New Zealand and one per month for Australia was to ensure that there was no drain of labour taken from Samoa, of people who would take care of families and work the land.

“That is why Cabinet will continue to direct (faatonutonu) the seasonal workers programme..”

“The decision is for just one flight per month. One to New Zealand, and one to Australia..”

The Deputy Prime Minister said they have noted an increasing number of companies wanting to hire seasonal workers from Samoa, however, Cabinet would continue to evaluate (iloilo) these opportunities with labour drain being their main concern.

“”To ensure the hope (faamoemoega) of families, villages, church and the nation, is not removed..”

Secondly, said the DPM, a special sub committee of Cabinet has been formed to oversee the selection of the seasonal workers programme.

The Cabinet Committee will work closely with the Ministry of Labour to ensure the equitable distribution of seasonal worker opportunities to all of Samoa, Tuala announced.

In Samoa’s 200k population, there are only approximately 35,000 in formal employment. The majority of youth aged 18-35 in villages across the country do not have formal jobs, despite the desperate need to earn a regular income.

Most youth who leave school remain in villages to work the land and help maintain family income through subsistence farming with some selling produce at local market places.

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When a call is made for a seasonal worker intake, literally thousands of people, both men and women, rush in to register. In June 2021, the EFKS hall at Mulinuu was damaged as people broke down doors and windows, desperate to register for seasonal worker opportunities overseas.

The New Zealand seasonal worker scheme has increased its total intake from 14,400 to 16,000 for this current year.

Opportunities are given to workers from Samoa, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Workers must meet health and character requirements and provide evidence of arrangements to leave New Zealand at the end of their stay.

People employed under the RSE policy may stay in New Zealand for up to seven months during any 11-month period. Exceptions to this are workers from Tuvalu and Kiribati, who can stay for nine months because of the distance from New Zealand and the cost of travel.