Seasonal work Samoa's economic future
Seasonal workers stuck abroad may soon be brought home and plans are being concocted to safeguard future deployments from being trapped behind border closures.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Pulotu Lyndon Chu Ling told the Samoa Observer that the Government is in discussions with its seasonal work partner Governments and employers.
He said they have shown they want to bring workers back next season and are working with Samoa on keeping them safe when they come.
“Though the season is over now, they have given us a positive indication that they are willing for the workers to come back next season,” Pulotu said.
“It is our prayer and hope that things will continue, even at a slow pace, but not a complete cut off. That would be a devastating situation.”
He said work is ongoing to prepare a contingency plan or flight pathway for the scenario where workers are sent overseas and are stuck abroad should major spikes in the global pandemic see borders tighten once more.
“If a new round of workers is sent there, we have to make sure that there is a contingency plan in place to ensure there will be a pathway to bring them back, even if we continue with this pandemic in the next two years. I think that will be something we can work out with our overseas partners.”
Because seasonal work on orchards and farms was considered essential during the lockdowns in New Zealand and Australia, the workers could keep working throughout the season and can expect work in the coming seasons, even as other sectors slowly reopen.
As for the workers that have not been able to return since the last season, Pulotu indicated that the Samoan Government is working to bring them home.
“I am positive that the ongoing discussions and arrangements on both sides that have been happening for the past few weeks will come to a good conclusion soon.
“I hope we will be able to finally bring them back and prepare them, if possible, for the next season.”
Pulotu, and his Minister Lautafi Fio Purcell say Samoa needs to diversify its economy away from its high dependency sectors, tourism and remittances (much of which is from seasonal workers).
But that diversification won’t happen overnight, and Pulotu said seasonal work will need to continue in the coming years or Samoa will be in trouble.
“I think obviously it will be a major devastation to the economy if the current situation will continue in the next two years,” he said.