Are Pacific islanders making a career out of seasonal work in Australia? No.
In two recent blogs I argued that, despite claims to the contrary, the reliance of Australia’s and New Zealand’s seasonal worker schemes on returning workers was not excessive. The schemes looked more like ones in which return work was banned than one in which reliance on return workers was maximised. That analysis relied only on two types of data: of the total number of seasonal work visits, and the total number of seasonal workers.
For Australia, though not yet for New Zealand, we have much more detailed information on the distribution of workers by the number of visits. This data can be used to answer this question: how many visits will an average seasonal worker make to Australia? This is an important question because there is a suspicion that too many Pacific islanders are making a career out of seasonal work, and that what was meant to be a temporary migration program is becoming, de facto, a permanent one.
The graph below provides the basic data, showing the shares of workers coming each year for the first, second, third time and so on. Not surprisingly, the proportion on their first visa is falling, as the number of experienced workers to choose from grows. The proportion on the second and third visa are constant (at around 25% and 12% respectively), and then the number on three or more visas is growing, but slowly.
The share of first-time, second-time etc workers under the SWP
We can use this data to calculate the probability that workers who visit one year will return in the future. I estimate this for each year by asking: how many workers with one (or two, etc) seasonal work visa have that year obtained a second (or third, etc)? These return probabilities are shown in the figure …read more