IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Australia’s Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme: why has take-up been so low?

Listed author(s):
  • Danielle Hay


    (Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University)

  • Stephen Howes


    (Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University)

The Australian Government introduced the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme (PSWPS) in 2008 to allow Pacific Islanders to fill seasonal labour shortages in the horticulture industry, and announced in December 2011 that the scheme would be made permanent. Take-up of the scheme is increasing but has been very low. As of the end of March 2012, only 1,100 PSWPS workers have arrived since the scheme’s commencement. This study tries to explain why the PSWPS has not employed more Pacific workers. It distinguishes between different hypotheses that could explain the poor outcome, and uses quantitative and qualitative analysis to test each hypothesis, including a survey of growers. The study finds a number of reasons for the low take-up. Growers are largely satisfied with their current labour supply, in terms of both quantity and quality: 93 percent of growers interviewed said they had no trouble finding labour, and 81 percent were satisfied with the quality of their existing labour force. The scheme is not well known: half the growers surveyed had simply not heard of the scheme, and most of those who had lacked information about it. The scheme also suffers from perceptions of high levels of risk and costs, including excessive red tape. Despite its slow start, PSWPS might still succeed on the basis of the productivity gains it has already shown it can deliver. But this is by no means assured: even growers who are unhappy with their current labour supply arrangements are reluctant to try the PSWPS. For the scheme to expand, the Australian Government will need to promote the scheme much more vigorously, and reduce the scheme’s financial and compliance costs. The Government also needs to attend to illegal horticultural labour practices, and tackle the booming working holiday visa category. Most growers now rely mainly on backpackers, and their numbers have increased rapidly in recent years: we estimate the number of backpackers working on farms increased from 13,000 in 2001-02 to 37,000 in 2007-08. In particular, the special preference which horticulture receives under the working holiday visa category should be removed. The policy challenges involved in making the PSWPS work should not be underestimated. Other avenues should also be explored for promoting Pacific migration, including adoption of New Zealand’s quota-based Pacific permanent migration schemes.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:'s_Pacific_Seasonal_Worker_Pilot_Scheme.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University in its series Development Policy Centre Discussion Papers with number 1217.

in new window

Date of creation: Apr 2012
Handle: RePEc:een:devpol:1217
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Crawford Building, Lennox Crossing, Building #132, Canberra ACT 2601

Phone: +61 2 6125 4705
Fax: +61 2 6125 5448
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:een:devpol:1217. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Macarena Rojas)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.