Why Timorese workers love the Seasonal Worker Programme
The Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) is extremely popular in the Pacific and Timor-Leste where it recruits workers. It offers opportunities for workers to improve their livelihoods, earning more money than would be possible at home. The SWP brings workers to Australia for six months to work in areas of seasonal labour deficit, specifically horticulture and hospitality. In Australia, the Department of Employment approves employers to the program, for which they are required to meet legislated responsibilities for both living conditions and wage levels at or above the minimum wage. If employers are non-compliant, the Department of Employment is responsible for following up to ensure they meet their obligations to the workers. Notwithstanding the few cases where these obligations are not met (for example here), this arrangement provides a level of confidence that conditions comply with Australian standards. This level of oversight is not available to the majority of migrant workers globally, most of whom work in extremely harsh conditions in Asia and the Middle East.
Recent research on the SWP shows a remarkably high satisfaction level with the Programme. Last year the Labour Mobility Assistance Program (LMAP) commissioned research into the views of Timorese and Pacific migrants to Australia on the Seasonal Worker Programme. I was the lead researcher for Timor-Leste, completing an in-depth survey in November 2016 and a follow-up study in April 2017. A similar study was done in Vanuatu.
In the survey, 50 Timorese workers were asked how satisfied they were with their SWP experiences. An overwhelming 96% were satisfied, the majority (68%) being ‘very satisfied’. In Vanuatu, all of the women and 91% of the men said they were ‘satisfied’. In addition, 84% of Timorese workers rated their accommodation as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ quality, while …read more