Coffee & Controversy: Benefits of RSE Scheme

Indisputable discussions on the social costs of the RSE Scheme seemed to be the focus other than the benefits of the scheme when it comes to gender during the Coffee & Controversy show at Lava Lounge yesterday.

The panel was made of Season Worker Programme’s (SWP) John Salong, Glen Craig from Pacific Advisory, TNC Consultant’s Tess Newton Cain, Daily Post’s Dan McGarry and hosted by Mark O’Brien from 96 Buzz FM.

Mr John Salong from the Seasonal Workers Programme said that social costs were higher than the economic return so since the establishment of the labour scheme, men were the target and women were to stay back and look after the community.

“Men don’t provide nurture and care like women do, that is why there is 83% men in the RSE scheme and 17% women, women are encourage to stay back and look after the children, elderly and the community,” he said.

Tess Newton Cain said that the World Bank and the IMF concentrated more on economic return than social costs of their programs that were initiated to help the people of Vanuatu.

Mr Salong said that Vanuatu sent 2,500 workers to work in New Zealand in 2015 and Australia recruited 900 and is looking into increasing the number to at least 2,000 workers.

“The benefits of the RSE is more obvious back in the island communities, where there is lighting from solar purchased by the RSE workers and easy access to water through water tanks they have bought,” he said.

“There is also cultural exchange of work experience when the workers go to New Zealand or Australia, this is casual work and during the period they learn different method of farming and labour from other work mates.”

Mrs Newton Cain said that on the other hand the RSE was having negative impacts on the local businesses within the country that lose their workers to the overseas labour scheme.

“Local business are bearing the brunt because they are the ones who have provided training for these people who leave to work in the SWP scheme, the businesses do not benefit from this scheme as the workers don’t come to work when they return from Australia or New Zealand,” she said.

Mr Salong reiterated that the scheme was a casual job and the minimum wage in Vanuatu was not liveable and the scheme was a chance to improve the lives of the local communities through the labourers.

Pacific Advisory’s, Glen Craig disagreed that workers in Vanuatu were paid according to the scope of works they were assigned to and that there is a significant loss of number of skills to overseas labour.

According to Mr Salong, unless there is an increase of labour force rates in Vanuatu it will be an advantage that the skills acquired stays in the country.

“Workers in the RSE scheme who go for 3 – 6 months earned $4,000 in New Zealand and $ 6,000 in Australia and that totals Vt2 million that they bring back into the country and used to improve their communities,” he said.

Mr Craig said that after TC Pam, 400 workers in the RSE scheme in New Zealand have organised 7 tonnes of clothes that was sent over to their families that were affected to which Media Director for Daily Post, Dan McGarry agreed that Vanuatu’s society is one of the most egalitarian in the world.

“The social costs of the scheme is important to consider and this topic will be further discussed later in the week when we have a representative from the New Zealand High Commission come over,” McGarry said.

Due to the many good and bad factors of the SWP/RSE scheme, the debate will be aired later in the week so stay tuned.

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