Ni-Vanuatu ‘making business’ through seasonal worker programs


An objective of both Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (RSE) is to encourage economic development in the Pacific (as well as Timor-Leste in the case of SWP). A number of ni-Vanuatu seasonal workers, in both the RSE and SWP, have created various and sometimes unexpected businesses and responded to the changing economic environment in Vanuatu off the back of their seasonal work. Research conducted reveals that seasonal workers have been encouraged to invest money earned from seasonal work in businesses that are not necessarily aligned with what workers want or need. For example, workers have been encouraged into particular businesses by local chiefs or leaders and have pursued ventures out of obligation. Workers from areas with limited commercial opportunities are dissuaded from business aspirations due to concerns their business ideas are unsustainable due to limited resources and incomes in their villages.

Examining a recent sample (2019) of 79 RSE workers and 95 SWP workers randomly selected from four areas in Australia and three in New Zealand, it was found that 87% invested in some type of business or contributed to a family member’s or community business venture. When compared to previous research findings, the recorded number of business investments was significantly higher than anticipated. The majority of these workers had also participated in their respective schemes for more than three seasons, which is when business investment occurs. Figure 1 shows the main areas of business investment. Read more.