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Samoa's spending on unemployment programmes "minimal" – A.D.B.

Samoa is among Pacific states who spend minimal amounts on programmes to help people out of work secure employment, according to a new report from the Asian Development Bank (A.D.B.).

In the bank's report into Active Labor Market Programmes (A.L.M.P.) in the Pacific for July, it finds that the programmes – which provide relief and support to people on the margins of the labour market – are generally underdeveloped across the region. 

A.L.M.P. is the bank's umbrella term for a range of social support programmes for the unemployed and underemployed. Their scope includes initiatives such as skills development and training programmes; providing limited income support to low-income households, including direct support to outer-island copra cutters or assistance in getting seasonal work in Australia and New Zealand.

The report titled, The social protection indicator for the Pacific: Assessing Progress says only five countries in the Pacific have A.L.M.P.s and spend significant amounts on them. They are: Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, and Tonga. 

Samoa is among the other five Pacific Nations who spend a minimum amount on the labour schemes.

Samoa's "negligible" spending on the programmes classes it in the same category as Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, the report found. 

Meanwhile, the Cook Islands, the Federated State of Micronesia and Nauru do not have A.L.M.P.s at all.

The report concludes that further efforts in developing active labour market programmes is needed to address the needs of the unemployed and underemployed through skills development.

A.L.M.P.S. can support the poorest segments of society by involving them in food-and-cash-for-work programmes and providing them with immediate relief. 

Currently, a total of 2,405 Samoans are employed under the seasonal worker schemes in Australia and New Zealand. 

That figure was confirmed by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Labour (M.C.I.L.). 

Out of the 2,405 seasonal scheme workers, a total of 1,878 are employed under the Recognised Seasonal Employers programme in New Zealand and 527 under the Seasonal Workers programme in Australia. 

M.C.I.L.'s Chief Executive Officer, Pulotu Lyndon Chu Ling, said the number of seasonal workers recruited every year has increased since it first started 12 years ago and also confirmed a total of 38 employers in the programme recruited Samoans to work for them.

According to the reports, Samoa is amongst the only seven countries who provide training programmes targeting a certain group to take advantage of the overseas employment opportunities.

"Skills development and training programme target the unemployed and underemployed and seek to enable them to take advantage of employment opportunities and improve employment quality," it finds. 

"These programmes are available in seven countries of the Pacific (Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga), but their combined expenditure was only 0.1 per cent of aggregate GDP in 2015."

The regional average of spending on A.L.M.P.s was  17.9 per cent of GDP per capita, with a corresponding benefit of $391.28 in monetary terms, according to the A.D.B.

"Kiribati had the highest benefit in the Pacific as a share of GDP per capita, at 128.3 per cent, mostly stemming from its cash- and food-for-work programme and its support for outward movement of labour under the New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme. 

"The benefit in the Solomon Islands was 48.5 per cent of GDP per capita, mainly attributable to the country’s skills development and training programme and support for domestic unemployed youth. In monetary terms, the benefit in Kiribati was the highest at $1,889.63."

Benefits in the broader Polynesian region of 1.9 per cent of GDP per capita or $74.89 were significantly below the Pacific average, the report said.

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