Fewer Pacific workers in PNG

INEFFECTIVE bilateral programmes have contributed to the low number of Pacific Islanders coming to work in Papua New Guinea, a researcher says.
Carmen Voigt Graf, a fellow at the Development Policy Centre, said the low number of workers from Pacific Islands was due to challenges they faced in accessing the PNG labour market.
According to data gathered from the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations, the overall number of work permits for foreign workers in May was 41,096, with Pacific Island countries contributing just 511 permits out of that.
Graf said while the numbers of workers from the island countries had increased in line with the increase of foreign workers in PNG, shared membership in Pacific regional organisations had not resulted in any significant movement of workers into the region’s largest economy.
“At present, the Melanesian Spearhead Group’s (MSG) skills movement scheme (SMS) is the only existing sub-regional labour mobility scheme with the objective of facilitating the temporary movement of skilled MSG nationals in the region for the purpose of employment,” Graf said.
“Although procedures and administrative mechanisms have been established, and the MoU (agreement) provides for the recognition of certain qualifications awarded in the MSG countries, not a single worker has moved under the SMS between any of the participating countries in the three years of its existence.
“Many big companies are foreign-owned and employ workers from the countries where their headquarters are located, or they have established networks with recruitment agents in labour-sending countries, such as the Philippines.
“In addition, Pacific Islanders are not represented in the PNG labour market to the extent that Australian and many Asian workers are, and have as such not had an opportunity to develop networks to gain a reputation as competent workers.
“The lack of a Pacific qualifications framework also means that qualifications are not directly comparable, and not necessarily compatible between Pacific Island countries.”
Graf said only an operational and functioning regional movement programme could be expected to increase the number of Pacific workers in PNG as well as workers from PNG in other Pacific neighbours. Pacific Flash/The National
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