Overseas Employment

Labour mobility provides one of the viable development opportunities that Tonga can maximize to address its special development challenges. Labour mobility, or the circular temporary migration of workers for labour, can generate ‘triple wins’ for the workers, their countries of origin and the countries that receive them. The ‘win’ for Tonga, as a sending country, is in the provision of a pathway for Tongans, particularly low-skilled and semi-skilled workers, to access employment opportunities overseas and to earn incomes that can support the sustainable livelihoods of their families at home. The remittances and skills acquired from labour mobility can also contribute substantially to community development as well as the country’s sustainable development. Tonga’s participation in the New Zealand Recognized Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme and the Australian Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) has demonstrated the significant development potential of labour mobility for Tonga. However, the development impact of labour mobility is not automatic and can remain elusive unless conducive development policies are developed and enforced in Tonga as well as in labour receiving countries, such as Australia and New Zealand. It is therefore critical for Tonga to improve its management of labour mobility through the development of targeted policies.

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