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Literature review

Labour mobility in the Pacific: a systematic literature review of development impacts

14 Mar 2017

Over the last decade, research and policy reviews have analysed different aspects of international labour mobility schemes between Pacific countries and New Zealand and Australia. This systematic literature review (SLR) takes stock of these studies and asks what they individually and collectively reveal about their economic and social value, and their development impact in the Pacific. This report provides a fresh understanding of the links between labour markets in Pacific counties and those in New Zealand and Australia. It also offers updated information and an analytical framework for Pacific governments to develop the appropriate labour market policies for their sustainable economic development. Almost 200 research reports and studies were identified. Overall, commentary on the development impacts of labour mobility varied by country but also by degree of success: there were positive impacts identified in some studies, others identified negative impacts. All pointed to transformative effects. However, they also noted that research with longer time frames was needed to fully understand the nature of these effects and to provide credible policy relevant evidence. Such contradictory results are not surprising but speak to the need for a coherent framework to better position the policy relevance of different findings For this reason, a framework for analysis was developed: “Imperatives Driving Labour Mobility Policy by Triple-Win Framework”. RSE policy predominantly follows the “triple-win” logic as a way to provide benefits to countries of origin, the destination country, and the seasonal worker. Arguably other groups that benefit are those who provide the wrap-around services such as transport operators, accommodation providers, pastoral care workers and those involved in facilitating financial services. To better understand the nature of how the triple-win logic provides development impacts and therefore invites appropriate policy, four key imperatives were identified: economic, demographic, political and development. These imperatives drive both the gains and losses for the key stakeholders. As a framework, it will be possible to identify, for the region as well as for each country, the research knowledge and the evidence gaps. In summary, while it is clear that labour mobility, and particularly RSE in New Zealand, provides people from the Pacific with the economic right to work in a developed country, it is less clear if this compensates for their loss of social and other rights in the destination country. It is important to address this issue, in all its complexity, because for economic development to be sustainable in the Pacific, the gains from having economic rights must sit equally alongside advances in the social and environmental context.

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