Best practice in labor mobility

The World Bank’s Manjula Luthria on labor mobility for the poor (pdf):

The Pacific Islands and New Zealand program, known as the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme has been described by the International Labour Organization’s good practices database as a model for other destination countries. The New Zealand Department of Labour (2010) recently concluded that “Overall, the RSE policy has achieved what it set out to do.” The policy provides employers in the horticulture and viticulture industries with access to a reliable and stable workforce, with productivity gains starting to emerge as workers return for another season. The main concerns raised about temporary labor programs have been mitigated: the evaluation finds little displacement of New Zealand workers; almost all workers returned, with overstay rates of about 1 percent in the first season and less than 1 percent in the second; and concerns about worker exploitation have arisen in only a couple of isolated cases. A World Bank evaluation (McKenzie and Gibson 2010) also revealed that the RSE has also lived up to the policy goal of improving development in the Pacific Islands.

Based on this positive record, this note provides general lessons for policy makers who wish to institute similar TMP programs for the poor. These lessons could have wide portability due to the fact that the Pacific–New Zealand program is sizeable by international standards—already reaching one-third the size of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, which is in its 44th year of operation and considered global best practice thus far. Three broad areas emerge as a priority for policy and operational focus: design, management, and capacity building.