Pacific Labour Mobility
Pacific labour mobility is central to Australia's stepped-up engagement with our Pacific neighbours, delivering positive outcomes for workers, employers and participating countries. Australia's Pacific labour mobility initiatives – the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) - enable Pacific and Timorese workers to take up jobs in rural and regional Australia with approved employers who have been unable to find enough suitable Australians to fill vacancies in their businesses.
Pacific workers help Australian businesses address workforce shortages, have opportunities to develop skills, earn income and send home remittances to support their families and communities, and support the broader economic development of their countries. Pacific labour mobility also helps create strong links between people, businesses and communities, fostering deeper connections between Australia and our neighbours.
The wellbeing of Pacific and Timorese workers is a high priority for the Australian, Pacific and Timor-Leste governments. All workers are protected by the same workplace rights and laws as Australian workers, and additional provisions are in place to support the welfare and wellbeing of workers while they live and work in Australia.
Countries currently participating in Pacific labour mobility are Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme
The Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme is the Australian Government's new streamlined, integrated approach to our Pacific worker programs. There are two streams:
The PLS enables eligible employers to recruit low and semi-skilled workers for between one and 3 years in any sector in rural and regional Australia. The program commenced in July 2018 following a successful pilot in northern Australia and is administered by DFAT, with the support of the Pacific Labour Facility. Workers are currently placed in a range of sectors including meat processing, agriculture, aged care, accommodation, fisheries and forestry.
Under the SWP, workers can be employed for up to 9 months in the agriculture sector, as well as the accommodation sector in rural and regional areas. Workers can return in following years. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) administers the SWP. Since it commenced in 2012, the program has helped fill more than 50,000 seasonal jobs, supporting both our Pacific family and the economic activity and competitiveness of rural and regional Australia.
Pacific labour mobility consultations
In June and July 2021, the Australian Government sought the views of stakeholders on options for improving, aligning and streamlining the two Pacific worker programs. The Government received 92 submissions through the consultation website and 45 written submissions. A further 47 consultations were held, mostly virtually due to the evolving COVID situation. The PALM scheme delivers a joined-up approach to the SWP and PLS and is one of a number of changes being made in response to the consultations. The Australian Government will continue to make improvements in response to the feedback received during consultations with further announcements expected in late 2021.