Social development outcomes of participation in the New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme for ni-Vanuatu seasonal migrant workers : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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This thesis is focused on the New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme which enables low-skilled seasonal migrant workers, primarily from the Pacific Islands, to work temporarily in New Zealand’s horticulture and viticulture industries. This study examines how seasonal work schemes contribute to the social development of participating workers and their families, and therefore links to previous research that tended to focus on the positive economic development outcomes for workers, their families and communities. The primary focus of this study is on the experiences of ni-Vanuatu migrant workers. Fieldwork, utilising qualitative research methods, was conducted in two field sites – vineyards of Blenheim, New Zealand, and Tanna Island, Vanuatu. Findings suggest that the scheme is delivering social and economic benefits to participating ni-Vanuatu migrants and their families. Furthermore, migrants gain skills and knowledge, particularly in relation to their management of time and money. Although not always directly transferable to Vanuatu, the skills and knowledge gained by migrants enable their success during repeat RSE contracts in New Zealand, reflecting migrants’ cultural adaptability; the ability to move and adjust successfully to the cultural settings of both Vanuatu and New Zealand. Alongside these positive development outcomes, there are power issues at play within the RSE scheme which result in the ni-Vanuatu migrants becoming dependent on pastoral care support, and involved in a submissive relationship with their RSE employers. Positively, with the increasing independence of experienced migrants, this situation is beginning to change. Nevertheless, with the success of experienced migrants comes a caution: if a group of experienced circulating migrants come to dominate participation in the RSE scheme, opportunities for first-time migrants to participate will be reduced, and inequitable development outcomes at the grassroots level in Vanuatu may result. It would seem then, that with equitable consideration of future recruitment, the RSE scheme may continue to deliver benefits to participating migrants and their families, as well as to Vanuatu and New Zealand.
Migrant workers, Foreign labour, Foreign workers, Guest workers, Vanuatu, Ni-Vanuatu, Seasonal migrant workers, New Zealand, Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE)