A slice of paradise? So why are our people leaving their paradise?

By The Editorial Board 22 September 2022, 6:00AM

Desperate times call for desperate measures. In Samoa today, this is why teachers, nurses and many other professionals are taking hard labour jobs in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere to try and make ends meet. 

Purely from an economical lens, it makes perfect sense. The money is better, the opportunities are endless and at a time where the cost of living bites even harder than ever before, the choice to take up these opportunities is a no brainer. 

Besides, it’s impossible to imagine how people in Samoa today could survive without remittances, both from these job opportunities and our Samoan families and loved ones living abroad. It is essentially the lifeblood of our economy.  

This week, we have been told that this country could lose another 2,500 local workers to employment overseas. 

Firstly, the StarKist tuna cannery in American Samoa has a delegation in Samoa looking for up to 500 workers. Then there is New Zealand’s biggest packer and exporter of apples, Mr. Apples, which also has a delegation in the country looking to hire an additional 2,000 seasonal workers by November this year.

From a job creation point of view, it’s fantastic. Given the absence of jobs in Samoa, and the desperate need for our population to make ends meet, who would not rejoice at the possibilities?

It is undeniable that most participants see it as the golden goose to realise their dreams of possessions and material wealth. Look at the cars that have been bought, the houses being built and many wonderful material possessions acquired over the years since the schemes started. 

For the most part, it is ultimately about making money but money and material wealth is one thing, it is not everything. 

Now the Minister of Public Enterprises, Leatinu’u Wayne So’oialo, said that while the availability of jobs is a good thing, he reminded that the exodus of local workers is a serious concern for local employers who are already badly disadvantaged. 

Speaking of which, how about this for a statistic? We are told that Samoa has already lost some 11,000 workers abroad to the seasonal worker scheme, with the potential of losing 2500 more on the way. 

“I value the complaints raised by the Chamber of Commerce, hoteliers, and our private sector that we are facing this shortage in our workforce,” the Minister said. 

We empathise with the Chamber of Commerce and Minister Leatinu’u. 

But this is one of those ‘caught between a rock and a hard place’ situations where the decision is inevitable, especially when people are desperate for money to get by.

We cannot stop people from seeking greener pastures. This is an age-old problem Samoa has and will always struggle with. Many moons ago, it started with the medical profession and more intellectual jobs. So how have we faired since? From then until now, despite so much talk and promises, the problem has only deteriorated. The chronic shortage of doctors remains a critical concern simply because Samoa cannot compete with the kind of monies being offered from outside. 

The challenge of labour shortage and the exodus of Samoan workers to seasonal work opportunities will go down the same path unless the Government finds a magic solution. Immediately. It’s easier said than done. 

The HRPP Government could not find a solution in 39 years in power. They could not create enough jobs in Samoa so their solution was the seasonal workers scheme. The current Government has inherited the challenges and they will struggle even more given the tough times we live in today. 

Truth be told, we don’t expect an overnight solution from Minister Leaitinu’u and this new Government. If they want to stay in power, they would not want to rock the boat and stop people from opportunities where they know they can make more money. It would be like the Government shooting itself in the foot. 

But we do expect them to give this job creation business a bit more thought and come up with a more realistic solution. 

Here’s an idea. They say that in Samoa, we have a slice of paradise. But why do people leave paradise? Who does not want to live in a paradise? Maybe, just maybe the answer to these questions could help the Government formulate a solution. 

But don’t hold your breath! Have a nice Thursday folks, God bless!

By The Editorial Board 22 September 2022, 6:00AM
Samoa Observer

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