In 2022, more than 6,600 workers left Samoa for seasonal worker programs; this was double the number leaving before the pandemic. This means that local business are seeing staff shortages.
For instance, over the past year, Tuiataga Nathan Bucknall, general manager of an exclusive resort on Taumeasina Island near Apia, Samoa, lost nearly 60 staff – about one-third of the number usually employed at the resort – to seasonal work programs in Australia and New Zealand, in a sign of a record exodus of workers from Samoa to meet growing demand for Pacific labor.
The loss of seasonal workers is a regular and usually welcome occurrence for Samoa, which relies on the receipt of remittances from citizens working abroad, equivalent to 29% of GDP according to World Bank data.
While the recent expansions of Australia’s and New Zealand’s seasonal work schemes have been pitched by Canberra and Wellington as a win-win, the response has been mixed in Pacific capitals. The Samoan government began a review into the country’s participation in the schemes last year, before temporarily suspending departures in December.