Pacific Labour Mobility growing with 2,500 workers in Australia by end of 20221
Claims the new agriculture visa for ASEAN countries will threaten Solomon Islanders’ opportunities to work in Australia are not true.
Labour mobility is a shared priority for Solomon Islands and Australia. Since Solomon Islands joined the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) and the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS), many Solomon Islanders have worked in Australia.
The number of Solomon Islands workers currently in Australia is at an all-time high. Since November 2020 over 1,200 Solomon Islanders have been deployed – including over 200 women. By the end of this year it is estimated there will be over 2,500 Solomon Island workers in Australia. Most Solomon Island workers have been deployed under the longer-term Pacific Labour Scheme, offering 1-3-year visas primarily in meatworks and agriculture. There are plans to expand to other sectors such as aged care, construction, hospitality and tourism, targeting workers with relevant technical and vocational skills.
‘Demand for workers from Solomon Islands in Australia remains high and we are looking at increasing numbers’, said Dr Lachlan Strahan, High Commissioner for Australia.
‘The individuals working under these programs, quite rightly, have a reputation for hard work, commitment and friendliness. By working in Australia, they gain valuable experience, earn incomes and send remittances home to support their families and communities’, said Dr Strahan.
The two labour schemes are demand driven and help fill labour gaps in Australia’s towns and farms, by providing access to a reliable and productive workforce. This helps to boost economic activity and competitiveness in rural and regional Australia.
It is estimated there is a current shortage of 26,000 agriculture workers in Australia. A new agriculture visa for ASEAN countries is being introduced to play a part in meeting this shortfall and will target short-term seasonal demand. It is not anticipated that this will affect the number of Solomon Islands workers deployed to work in Australia. Indeed, Australia is working to align the Pacific labour mobility programs to make it simpler for farmers to hire Pacific workers to help meet their labour requirements for many years to come.
‘Demand for workers from Solomon Islands will remain high’, said Dr Strahan. ‘Both governments would like to see the overall number grow substantially over the next few years.’
Employment of any foreign workers in Australia is in line with Australian pay and conditions.
‘It is critical that we continue to ensure that the workers from Solomon Islands are not exploited or abused. The Australian Government and Australian employers rightly take this duty of care seriously,’ said Dr Strahan.
‘Australia is committed to providing long-term support to ensure more Solomon Islands workers participate in the Pacific labour mobility program’, said Dr Strahan. ‘This cooperation brings benefits to both our countries and helps strengthen the valuable people-to-people links between our two countries.’