By CLARISSA MOI
THE seasonal workers’ programme is a huge employment opportunity for people in the country, says Prof Steven Howes, of the Australian National University.
Speaking at a panel discussion during the 35th Australia-PNG Business Forum Trade and Expo in Port Moresby yesterday, Howes said that the number of Papua New Guineans who took part in the seasonal workers’ programme was very low compared with other Pacific Island countries.
He said in this day and age, aid was important, trade and investment were critical but people to people links were also important, especially labour.
“There’s a huge opportunity for employment in a country with a very high level of unemployment to get young people without formal education into Australia for good wages and is becoming a very large scheme.
“In this financial year to April, 11,638 Pacific islanders came to Australia to participate in the scheme.
“It’s as big as the New Zealand programme and (it’s) growing at 20 to 30 per cent each year.”
“11,638 in total, Vanuatu is the biggest with 4,048, Tonga the second biggest with 3,013, Timor-Leste with 1,368, Samoa 433, Fiji 327, the Solomon 244, Kiribati 165 and finally Papua New Guinea 170.
“So Papua New Guinea is really missing out on the seasonal workers’ programme.
“It’s a great opportunity to connect.”
Howes said the programme was a private-sector demand driven scheme and not a government aid scheme.
He further added that Australia needed to do more to promote trade investment relationships, step up its trade relationships and strengthen the private sector.
“A lot of people think that the step-up doesn’t engage enough with the private sector.
“It’s too focused on aid and security and we need to strengthen the private sector.
“But ultimately it is up to Papua New Guinea on how the future of the relationship goes.” Howes said.
By CLARISSA MOI