At the 2016 Pacific Islands Forum meeting in the Federated States of Micronesia, Forum Leaders recognized the potential for increased regional mobility to “contribute to increased economic integration, greater investment and improved business practices.” “Leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to support private sector development in the region with a focus on improving mobility of businesses and skilled personnel, to support the ease of doing business in the region”.
As a result, the Forum Secretariat is currently working with Forum Members, relevant technical agencies and the private sector to coordinate efforts for increased mobility in the region.
On improving mobility, the Secretariat is looking at this issue through two perspectives: business mobility and labour mobility.
Business mobility aims to facilitate trade through the seamless movement across borders of usually highly skilled, business persons. As businesses in the region operate regionally, employers want to transfer employees among borders as easily as among cities.
Streamlining entry from and within the region for business people can result in reductions in transaction costs and considerable savings in time and resources. Improving the movement of skilled business persons is also a tool to accomplish business objectives by facilitating start-up of new business operations, transfer of knowledge or culture to other parts of the organisation, building an international group of personnel capable of working anywhere on short notice.
These constitute a gainful application of the principle of deepened economic integration between Forum members as promoted under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism (FPR).
Labour mobility in the Pacific region is seen as a means to relieving social and demographic pressures resulting from saturated labour markets, where shortages relate to skills. Positive labour migration contributes to skills, encourage entrepreneurial activities and increase investment and remittances.
There is now a broad consensus that, given the unique development challenges faced by the Pacific Island countries, expanding labour mobility is vital for our future. The economies of Pacific island countries have not been able to provide sufficient employment opportunities. Employment rates are estimated to be less than 50% of the working age population in most countries. Source: ILO Decent Work Report, May 2017.
In four Melanesian countries, an estimated 3 million people aged 20 to 64 years will be part of the working age population by 2040. Where these countries are unable to bring the jobs to the people, the alternative is to bring the people to where the jobs are.
For labour-sending countries in the Pacific, remittance flows contribute to increased income and consumption at the household level. This reduces poverty, loosens credit constraints and provides insurance against negative shocks. Remittances are also invested in education and health, with positive flow-on effects for human capital development.
In the Pacific region, the share of remittances as a share of GDP in 2014 was the highest in Tonga (27.1%), followed by Samoa (17.6%), Solomon Islands (14%), Tuvalu (10.7%), Kiribati (9.6%) and Fiji (4.5%), respectively. Source: World Bank Migration and Remittance database.
For labour-receiving countries in the Pacific, the immediate economic benefits of having migrants available to work is to expand the output of goods and services.
Basic Labor Mobility and Economic Indicators for Different Pacific Country Groupings
Stock of Emigrants
Open Labor Market Access (Compact with US)
Micronesia (Fed.States of)
High Mobility (Historical Ties & Bilaterals)
Low Mobility (Severely Restricted External Labor Market Access)
Climate Affected Atoll Countries
Tuvalu (relatively high labour mobility rate)
World Development Indicators 2015 for GDP per capita, for the most recent year available. Population statistics are taken from the UN WPP 201. Migrant stocks in 34 OECD countries taken from the DIOC Database on Immigrants in OECD Countries 2010-13. For more details, see Arslan et al. (2014) Remittances are from the World Bank Migration and Remittance database.
Complementing the PACER Plus Agreement will be a stand-alone Labor Mobility Arrangement, which will establish a broad framework for labour mobility cooperation and support efforts to build labour supply capacity in Pacific Island Countries. Increased labor mobility will deliver remittances to Pacific Island Countries and help unmet demands in Australia and New Zealand.