Kiribati Pacific Labour Mobility Schemes in the COVID-19 Context


In March of 2020, with the closure of international borders and the cessation of mobility, I- Kiribati seasonal workers were left stranded in Australia and New Zealand. Unable to return home, with reduced hours and wages, the plight of I-Kiribati seasonal workers during the COVID-19 context has proved extremely difficult. This paper explores the policy responses that have emerged to support seasonal workers and the outcomes this had for the wider Pacific Labour Mobility landscape. Through desk research of recent studies and data, and by examining the hypotheses proposed by DAWN’s analytical framework (Llavaneras Blanco and Cuervo, 2021), this paper argues responses in the aftermath of COVID-19 indicate that Pacific Labour Mobility (PLM) remains ‘business as usual’, with no major transformative policy changes taking place. Existing inequities within these schemes, remain. Allegations of exploitation and abuse continue, with a larger number of seasonal workers absconding in 2021 compared to the prior year. Longstanding gender biases have also been brought to the fore, with the experiences of six Kiribati women who have given birth in New Zealand, unable to return home and having to bear the medical costs themselves. The paper concludes that despite these trends there are opportunities for more transformative change to occur and the pandemic has highlighted this through the role that diaspora communities have played in supporting seasonal workers.

Research Type(s)
Report – Peer reviewed
Submitted by Roi Burnett
June 9, 2022
Published in

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