Note: Whatever happened to the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme evaluation?

We’ve published a couple of interviews over the last two weeks (here and here) which provided industry perspectives on why the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme (PSWPS) hasn’t had more of a take up. The causes identified — there is no absolute shortage of potential fruit pickers due to the growing number of backpackers working in horticulture; there is a lot of illegal labour in the sector; and the scheme has too much red tape — are the same ones Danielle Hay and I found in our PSWPS survey published earlier this year.

Pacific seasonal workers aren’t cheap. To get growers to turn to them, they need to be convinced of the productivity gains. But though there is talk of productivity gains associated with seasonal workers, there is no documented evidence. That’s why it is disappointing that the Government has not released its PSWPS evaluation, even though it was due in August 2011 (according to the executive summary of the interim evaluation, which is the only related document released so far), has apparently been ready for months, and the decision to move from a pilot to a permanent program (the Seasonal Worker Program) was announced in December of last year.

Why the Government has been so slow to release this evaluation is hard to say. It’s particularly disappointing given that the Shadow Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has declared her support for the scheme (here), thereby, one might think, taking it out of the political fray.

Let the evidence speak. Please publish the long-overdue PSWPS evaluation.

This blog is a part of a series on the Pacific Seasonal Worker Program. Other blogs in the series can be found here.

Stephen Howes is Director of the Development Policy CentreNotes are short posts, scheduled on demand.

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Stephen Howes

Stephen Howes is Director of the Development Policy Centre and Professor of Economics at the Crawford School of Public Policy at The Australian National University.

1 Comment

  • Pure speculation, but could a failure to release the evaluation be linked to the continuing consideration of labour mobility as part of the PACER-Plus negotiations?

    Officials from Australia, New Zealand and the Forum Island Countries will meet in Samoa this month to continue the trade talks – including discussing whether the SWS and NZ’s RSE Scheme can meaningfully be included in a final PACER-Plus agreement.

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