Lemalu responds to labour workers concern
Concerns expressed about Samoa’s private sector struggling with more and more skilled labourers taking up positions in seasonal employment schemes overseas are legitimate.
But the woman heading the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (M.C.I.L.) Labour Export and Employment Division, Lemalu Nele Leilua, said finding the balance would be difficult because seasonal work offers far more attractive financial benefits than what is otherwise locally available.
“I know people are talking about the fact that they earn a lot more money from there in a few months than working ordinary jobs in Samoa,” said Lemalu.
“But that is an option left to the person to decide although I do feel for the private sector because it’s difficult to raise wages for workers at a competitive rate.
“We have to understand and put ourselves in these people’s shoes. They need the money to help their families and are unemployed.”
Lemalu’s opinion was sought on the back of concerns by the President of the Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters (S.A.M.E.), Tagaloa Eddie Wilson. Speaking about the raise in the minimum wage to $3 tala, Tagaloa said a lot of skill workers are leaving the sector so they can take part in the seasonal scheme. He said losing skill workers would only disrupt the private sector.
According to Lemalu, there are cases where private companies do not employ skilled workers, asking only for those with semi skill or ones who are highly skilled.
She said this is one of the reasons some “skilled workers” are recruited under the scheme because they were turned away and are unemployed.
“The question is what can they do about it and what can we all do about it?” said Lemalu.
“We can’t stop the scheme, it’s growing and labour mobility is here to stay. So seeking solutions is the way to go about it…”
Furthermore, Lemalu said the workforce in Samoa could not take in everyone who were left unemployed when Yazaki closed in 2017.
She said it was the seasonal workers scheme had filled the gap, providing opportunities for the men and women so they could continue to be breadwinners for their families.