Beyond development impact: gender and care in the Pacific Seasonal Worker Programme

Publication date

28 Mar 2019

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Close to 17,320 workers participate in the Seasonal Worker Programme, a temporary migration scheme between Australia and selected island countries in the Pacific. This article looks at the ways in which seasonal migration affects the social lives of migrants from Tonga and Vanuatu, in their households and communities. It explores the various barriers that women face as a result of this scheme, highlighting, in particular, imbalances in the gendered division of labour caused by the absence of males due to migration. It argues that focusing solely on the economic development discourse of seasonal labour programmes is problematic because it fails to take into account the normative dynamics and general context of seasonal workers. Such an approach also fails to take into consideration the rights of migrants to live with their families, and not to have to make choices that are shaped by physical separation from their families and communities. The article concludes with recommendations for policy reform that address the existing gender inequalities of seasonal worker programmes in the Pacific by putting work, care, and the everyday maintenance of the seasonal worker household at the centre of its analysis.