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How pro-poor is the selection of seasonal migrant workers from Tonga under New Zealand's recognized seasonal employer program ?

  • Gibson, John
  • McKenzie, David
  • Rohorua, Halahingano

Temporary migration programs for unskilled workers are increasingly being proposed as a way to both relieve labor shortages in developed countries and aid development in sending countries without entailing many of the costs associated with permanent migration. New Zealand's new Recognized Seasonal Employer program is designed to enable 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 workers for the Recognized Seasonal Employer program, and to analyze how pro-poor the recruitment process has been to date. The findings show that recruited workers come from largely agricultural backgrounds, and have lower average incomes and schooling levels than Tongans not participating in the program. Comparing thecharacteristics of program workers with those of Tongans applying to permanently migrate to New Zealand through the Pacific Access Category, the program workers are more rural and less educated. The program therefore seems to have succeeded in creating new opportunities for relatively poor and unskilled Tongans to work in New Zealand.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4698.

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Date of creation: 01 Aug 2008
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4698
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  1. David McKenzie & John Gibson & Steven Stillman, 2007. "A land of milk and honey with streets paved with gold: Do emigrants have over-optimistic expectations about incomes abroad?," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 0709, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
  2. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521029018 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. 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.
  4. 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?," Working Papers in Economics 08/09, University of Waikato, Department of Economics.
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