An Ode to the Pacific Update Conference

Fair warning, this is not a lyrical poem as the title suggests.

I wasn’t in Canberra to attend the Pacific Update conference hosted by ANU this past June. Having just discovered the website, I thought I’d share a few presentation slides I thought were interesting from the labour mobility session.

Migration and Education: The kids are doing alright

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This slide comes from a presentation called ‘Migration in Micronesia‘ by Michael Levin of the EWC Pacific Islands Program. What we see is the potential to radically and rapidly improve education outcomes via migration. In this case, Micronesians who live in Guam are more than twice as likely to have finished high school than those who live in the Federated States of Micronesia. This holds across gender. Remittances are important but over the long term, I bet education is more important for improving the lives of people.

A Growing Population: Pacific Islanders in Australia

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Australia has a growing population, driven by strong migration. Nowhere is this more evident than the movement of those in the Pacific. While Jonathan Pryke uses Ancestry (and not birthplace) for his excellent analysis of Pacific Islanders in Australia, we clearly see massive growth between the 2006 census and the 2011 census. Much of this is migration, particularly a Polynesian population who benefit from a more open immigration framework via New Zealand.

As Jonathan points out, if this growth is maintained over the coming decades, people with Pacific Island ancestry will account for up to three per cent of the population by 2040, compared to just one per cent today. This type of analysis is too rare in Australian migration research so props to the Development Policy Centre for crunching the census data.

“I don’t think much of your program and therefore I will not use it”: The Australian Seasonal Worker Program

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The reputation of the SWP is in the trash. Jesse Doyle outlines perhaps the major issue with Australia’s attempt at merging migration and development. In his presentation, ‘Australia’s Seasonal Work Program: Demand-side constraints and suggested reforms‘, he shows that 25 per cent of employers who do not use the program consider it poor or below average, with a large plurality – 42 per cent – considering it average.

How can you get employers to use a program where initial costs are slightly higher if most of them think its average or worse? The Australian horticultural industry may be shooting itself in the foot by ignoring this program given the potential productivity benefits, but the government doesn’t have to hand them the gun. Some targeted propaganda combined with a little bit of streamlining would have the SWP humming into the future.

Well done to the Development Policy Centre for putting together this conference and their ongoing commitment to researching migration and development in the Pacific.

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