Discussion papers

DP91 Worsening employment outcomes for Pacific technical graduate job-seekers
Richard Curtain and Stephen Howes
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DP 70 What can Papua New Guinea do to lift its numbers in the seasonal worker programs of Australia and New Zealand?
Richard Curtain, September 2018
» view publication at SSRN
» read blog

DP 65 Backpackers v seasonal workers: Learning from the contrasting temporary migration outcomes in Australian and New Zealand horticulture
Richard Curtain, Matthew Dornan, Stephen Howes and Henry Sherrell, November 2017
» view publication at SSRN
» read blog

DP 56 Migration and labour mobility from Kiribati
Carmen Voigt-Graf and Sophia Kagan, March 2017
» view publication at SSRN

DP 34 Skill development and regional mobility: Lessons from the Australia-Pacific Technical College
Michael A. Clemens, Colum Graham and Stephen Howes, May 2014
» view publication at SSRN
» read blog

DP 17 Australia’s Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme: Why has take-up been so low?
Danielle Hay and Stephen Howes, April 2012
» view publication at SSRN
» read blog

Journal articles

It is time for a new regional compact!
Richard Curtain, Ryan B. Edwards, Massimiliano Tani and Glenn Withers
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Bubble in, bubble out: Lessons for the global recovery and future crises from COVID-19 and the Pacific
Ryan Edwards 2020, World Development
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Pacific seasonal workers: Learning from the contrasting temporary migration outcomes in Australian and New Zealand horticulture
Richard Curtain, Matthew Dornan, Stephen Howes, Henry Sherrell, 2018
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Reports and Policy Briefs

PB20 Helping APTC trades graduates to migrate to Australia under the TSS
Richard Curtain and Stephen Howes, February 2021

The Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) is intended to promote labour mobility, but few of its graduates have migrated to Australia for work. APTC’s labour mobility efforts have recently focused on semi-skilled jobs in Australia under the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS), so far with little success. What has been overlooked are the opportunities for APTC graduates with trade qualifications, about half of its graduate stock, to obtain skilled work in Australia under the existing Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa (subclass 482). The APTC should be re-oriented to expand Pacific participation, currently almost absent, in the TSS visa category.

» download PDF

Governance of the Seasonal Worker Programme in Australia and sending countries
Richard Curtain and Stephen Howes, November 2020

While research has demonstrated the benefits of the SWP for both workers and farmers, less is known about how the program is governed, especially in sending countries, and about the determinants of national participation. This report analyses these issues, and recommends ways to improve SWP governance, both in Australia and in the sending countries, with the objective of promoting the sustainable growth of seasonal labour mobility from the Pacific into Australia. It is the culmination of years of research, including fieldwork undertaken over six years in 11 countries.
» download PDF report
» download PDF executive summary

Pacific Islander communities in Australia & employment – Preliminary data analysis
Beth Orton, June 2020

A preliminary analysis using 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Population and Housing data of an estimated ‘Pacific Islander communities’ population in Australia and selected demographic and employment indicators.
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A pressure release valve? Migration and climate change in Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu
Richard Curtain and Matthew Dornan, February 2019
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» read blog

Analysing Pacific labour mobility: Devpolicy Blogs 2017-18
September 2018
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Pacific Possible – Labour mobility: the ten billion dollar prize
Richard Curtain, Matthew Dornan, Jesse Doyle and Stephen Howes, July 2016

This report looks at the issue of Pacific labour mobility from both sides of the equation. It seeks to understand the perspectives and concerns of both sending and receiving countries, and it proposes reforms for both sets of countries. The report places particular emphasis on providing opportunities for low-skilled and medium-skilled migration. A broad range of reforms is proposed, but is particularly focused on providing labour mobility opportunities for those beyond the elite of sending countries to maximise the welfare gains of migration, and to reduce the risk of brain drain. The report forms part of the World Bank’s Pacific Possible series.

» download full report
» download four-page summary
» read blog

Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program: Demand-side constraints and suggested reforms
Jesse Doyle, The World Bank; and Stephen Howes, Development Policy Centre, February 2015

This paper reports on the results of a comprehensive survey of employers and industry bodies across the horticulture sector examining employers’ views of the Seasonal Worker Program, which permits workers from eight Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste to work in Australia for a period of fourteen weeks to six months.

» view report [PDF, 1.2MB]
» read blog


Submission regarding DEWR consultation re PALM scheme Deed of Agreement and Guidelines
Stephen Howes and Evie Sharman, March 2023

This submission addresses four issues regarding the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme deed of agreement and guidelines.

»view submission

Submission to ‘A Migration System for Australia’s Future’ Review
Stephen Howes and Evie Sharman, December 2022

The submission responds to the review of Australia’s migration system to ensure it better meets existing challenges and sets a clear direction for the coming decades.

»view submission

PALM reforms submission: The case for industry-managed compliance and how to maximise its effectiveness
Richard Curtain, October 2022

The submission responds to the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme reforms discussion paper (16 August 2022) for feedback on streamlining employer accreditation options

»view submission

Submission to DFAT Reforming Pacific Australia Labour Mobility
Stephen Howes and Evie Sharman, October 2022

The submission responds to three of the four headings provided in the Terms of Reference for the PALM reform consultation.

»view submission

Submission to DFAT Pacific Labour Mobility Consultation
Richard Curtain, Stephen Howes, Rochelle Bailey, Charlotte Bedford, Ryan Edwards and Michael Rose, July 2021

This submission responds to three of the key Pacific Labour Mobility Consultation questions, and six of the selected issues.

» view submission

Submission to the consultation on Papua New Guinea’s National Draft Labour Mobility Policy
Richard Curtain, February 2021

The purpose of this submission is to offer an assessment of two key features of the draft National Labour Mobility Policy: the importance of the primary role of employers in seasonal work recruitment, and the benefits for PNG in fostering labour mobility to Australia for trade-qualified workers.

» view submission

Submission to the Pacific Islands Forum 2050 Strategy
Stephen Howes and Ryan Edwards, November 2020

This submission builds a vision for Pacific labour mobility to 2050 to drive increased employment, stability, integration, and climate change adaptation. The submission details recommendations to: embed an emphasis on labour mobility in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent; significantly increase the Pacific diaspora; give the Pacific greater access to existing migration pathways; and, focus Pacific aid on the provision of higher-quality education.

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Submission to the National Agricultural Workforce Strategy
Richard Curtain, July 2020

This submission provides information relevant to identifying current and expected demand and supply for the Australian harvest workforce. This includes advice on how to identify the supply of Australian residents for horticulture harvest work as well as the expected demand for this work.

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Submission to the Inquiry into the Working Holiday Maker program
Beth Orton and Stephen Howes, July 2020

This submission will focus on the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visa as a major supply of seasonal labour to Australia’s horticulture sector. Through analysis of WHM visas granted, we show that there is an increasing shift in demand for the WHM visa from middle income partner countries and that the WHM visa is increasingly becoming an agricultural visa. With this comes increased risks of exploitation. We propose greater promotion and focus on the Seasonal Worker Programme to address the barriers for employer participation and to deliver a well-managed and responsive ‘seasonal worker’ scheme that also supports households and communities in the Pacific.

» view submission

Submission to the Select Committee on Temporary Migration
Holly Lawton and Ryan Edwards, July 2020

This submission relates to the Committee’s interests in the impact of wage theft, breaches of workplace rights and conditions on temporary migrants; policy responses to challenges posed by temporary migration; and whether permanent migration offers better long-term benefits for social cohesion. Pacific labour mobility is a key research area of the Development Policy Centre, and this submission draws on observations of Pacific labour mobility, particularly the Australian Government’s Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme.

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Submission to the Inquiry into Strengthening Australia’s relationships with countries in the Pacific region
Stephen Howes and Beth Orton, July 2020

This submission draws heavily on our submission to the inquiry on activating trade between Australian and Pacific countries (see below). Based on our analysis, we present five specific policy recommendations in relation to PACER Plus, Pacific labour mobility, the Pacific travel bubble, and aid.

» view submission

Submission to the Inquiry into activating trade and investment between Australia and Pacific island countries
Stephen Howes and Beth Orton, July 2020

This submission aims to demonstrate the unique nature of the Pacific economies, and of their interactions with the outside world, including Australia. It concludes that a conventional approach to promoting trade with the Pacific will fail, and that it is essential that the Committee put labour mobility at the front and centre of its considerations.

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Submission to the Inquiry into the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for Australia’s foreign affairs, defence and trade,
Ryan Edwards, June 2020

This submission relates to the Committee’s interests in the strategic implications of COVID-19 with particular respect to: implications for Australia’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade policy, particularly with respect to strategic alliances and regional security; the impact on human rights; and what policy and practical measures would be required to form an ongoing effective national framework to ensure the resilience required to underpin Australia’s economic and strategic objectives. We comment on these matters in relation to (a) Australia’s engagement and interests in the Pacific, and (b) aid and development policy.

» view submission

Submission to the Working Holiday Reform, Senate Standing Economics Committee – Legislative inquiry
Stephen Howes and Henry Sherrell, October 2016

This submission addresses the Senate Standing Economics Committee’s interest in the legislation concerning the backpacker tax and associated measures. Authored by Stephen Howes and Henry Sherrell, it argues reforms cannot be looked at in isolation. Seven recommendations are made, recognising the Working Holiday program is primarily a low-skilled labour migration program, with reforms put forward to reduce the exploitation of backpackers, deliver fairness for seasonal workers, and foster additional Pacific labour mobility.

» view submission
» read blog

Submission to the Working Holiday Maker tax review
Stephen Howes, September 2016

In August 2016, the Deputy Prime Minister and Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister announced a review into the terms of taxation for individuals in Australia on working holiday maker visas (417 and 462 visas). This submission, authored by Stephen Howes and based on two horticultural employer surveys, argues that reforms related to the working holiday maker (backpacker) tax cannot be looked at in isolation from other issues pertaining to Australia’s horticultural sector. Any reforms should serve to level the playing field for backpackers and seasonal workers. Three key recommendations are made: to apply the same tax rate to both groups; to level market testing requirements for both groups; and to require registration of employers and labour hire companies who hire backpackers and seasonal workers. The outcomes of the review were announced on 27 September 2016.

» view submission [PDF, 360 KB]
» read blog

Submission to the Inquiry into the Seasonal Worker Program
Stephen Howes and Jesse Doyle, July 2015

In May 2015, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection requested that the Joint Standing Committee on Migration inquire into and report on the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP). This joint submission, authored by Stephen Howes (Devpolicy Director) and Jesse Doyle (World Bank), presents evidence primarily from the perspective of Australian horticultural employers and makes eight recommendations for expanding the SWP. The committee’s final report was tabled on 5 May 2016.

» view submission [PDF, 694KB]
» view submission annexes [PDF, 1488KB]

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