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How Pro-Poor is the Selection of Seasonal Migrant Workers from Tonga under New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Program?

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  • John Gibson

    () (University of Waikato)

  • David McKenzie

    () (World Bank, BREAD and IZA)

  • Halahingano Rohorua

    (University of Waikato)

Abstract

Temporary migration programs for unskilled workers are increasingly being proposed as a way to both relieve labour shortages in developed countries and aid development in sending countries without entailing many of the costs associated with permanent migration. New Zealand’s new Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) program is designed with both these goals in mind, enabling unskilled workers from the Pacific Islands to work in horticulture and viticulture in New Zealand for a period of up to seven months. However, the development impact on a sending country will depend not only on how many workers participate, but also on who participates. This paper uses new survey data from Tonga to examine the process of selecting Tongans to work in the RSE, and to analyze how pro-poor the recruitment process has been to date. We find that the workers recruited come from largely agricultural backgrounds and have lower average incomes and schooling levels than Tongans not participating in the program. We also compare the characteristics of RSE workers to those of Tongans applying to permanently migrate to New Zealand through the Pacific Access Category, and find the RSE workers to be more rural and less educated. The RSE therefore does seem to have succeeded in creating new opportunities for relatively poor and unskilled Tongans to work in New Zealand.

Suggested Citation

  • John Gibson & David McKenzie & Halahingano Rohorua, 2008. "How Pro-Poor is the Selection of Seasonal Migrant Workers from Tonga under New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Program?," Working Papers in Economics 08/08, University of Waikato.
  • Handle: RePEc:wai:econwp:08/08
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    File URL: ftp://wms-webprod1.mngt.waikato.ac.nz/RePEc/wai/econwp/0808.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. David McKenzie & Pilar Garcia Martinez & L. Alan Winters, 2008. "Who is coming from Vanuatu to New Zealand under the new Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Program?," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0806, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    2. McKenzie, David & Gibson, John & Stillman, Steven, 2006. "How important is selection ? Experimental versus non-experimental measures of the income gains from migration," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3906, The World Bank.
    3. McKenzie, David & Gibson, John & Stillman, Steven, 2013. "A land of milk and honey with streets paved with gold: Do emigrants have over-optimistic expectations about incomes abroad?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 116-127.
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    Cited by:

    1. John Gibson & David McKenzie, 2014. "Development through seasonal worker programs: the case of New Zealand’s RSE program," Chapters,in: International Handbook on Migration and Economic Development, chapter 7, pages 186-210 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. John Gibson & David McKenzie, 2008. "Preliminary Impacts of a New Seasonal Work Program on Rural Household Incomes in the Pacific," Working Papers in Economics 08/18, University of Waikato.
    3. John Gibson & David McKenzie & Halahingano Rohorua, 2014. "Development Impacts of Seasonal and Temporary Migration: A Review of Evidence from the Pacific and Southeast Asia," Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(1), pages 18-32, January.
    4. Stillman, Steven & Gibson, John & McKenzie, David & Rohorua, Halahingano, 2015. "Miserable Migrants? Natural Experiment Evidence on International Migration and Objective and Subjective Well-Being," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 79-93.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    development seasonal migration; selectivity;

    JEL classification:

    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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