Is PLMAM fit for purpose?
By Richard Curtain The third Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting (PLMAM) 2019 took place on 7-9 October in Auckland, organised by the New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT). The first was in Brisbane two years ago, and the second in Honiara last year. The annual meeting is a product of a side agreement under Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations, known as PACER Plus called the Labour Mobility Arrangement. What did the meeting cover, and what were its outcomes?
As the Outcome Statement notes, the meeting brought together PACER Plus signatories, observers, industry and civil society representatives, and other relevant stakeholders such as researchers ‘to discuss the opportunities, challenges and actions on Pacific labour mobility’. The bigger question is whether PLMAM as a regional meeting can be anything more than a talkfest.
The focus on PACER Plus signatories means some countries (namely Timor-Leste, Fiji and PNG) are invited because they are eligible to take part in labour mobility programs, but are nevertheless excluded from key discussions.
The open sessions on the Tuesday and Wednesday covered ways to foster more intra-regional mobility, and barriers to mobility from the lack of recognition of skills and access for women. Other open sessions discussed remittances, superannuation and re-integration issues. While the closed session for PACER Plus signatories was held, side meetings took place on research priorities and health issues related to labour mobility.
The presentations in open sessions were broad in nature and the discussion was at a high level of generality, with little or no detail about the problems on the ground and how to respond to them. The only issue discussed that concerned a proposed policy reform by a sending country was the piloting of new arrangements in New Zealand that will enable seasonal workers to send their voluntary contributions to Kiwi Saver, …read more