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NZ overseas workers scheme proves to be a success

New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme has major benefits for overseas workers, employers and the countries involved, according to new research from the Department of Labour.

‘The RSE policy was designed to help with seasonal labour shortages in the horticulture and viticulture industries, and this new research by the Department of Labour shows the scheme is working well,’ said Immigration Minister Nathan Guy.

The research on earnings and return rates found that the majority of new workers will return to work another season in New Zealand, many for the same employer and that RSE workers are paid the same rate as New Zealand workers and have the same protections under law.

Data shows that mean gross seasonal earnings are around NZ$12,700 per worker, most of whom spend between three and seven months working in New Zealand.

‘The 2011 survey of RSE employers found that most have enjoyed better quality, more productive workers and a more stable workforce. Many say that RSE workers have helped their businesses to expand. At the same time it is providing valuable income, skills and experience that workers can take back to their home countries,’ said Guy.

‘Up to 8,000 overseas workers come to New Zealand under the RSE scheme every year. Employers have an obligation to get unemployed New Zealanders into jobs, but there are some industries that just cannot find enough workers, particularly at peak times. Up to 50,000 seasonal workers across New Zealand can be required at harvest time and RSE workers make up 6,000 to 7,000 of that, which equates to 10 to 15%,’ he explained.

The research also found that since the RSE began in 2007/08 the depth of worker experience has increased. In the 2010/11 season, the fourth season, three out of five RSE workers were returning workers and only 38% were participating for the first time. Over 1,000 workers from the first season have participated in all four seasons to date.

Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSEs) continue to source seasonal workers extensively from other sources, with 93% employing workers from Work and Income and 99% sourcing seasonal workers from the local community.

Some 47% of RSEs would like to recruit the same group of workers for next season, the research also found. Employers report that returning workers ‘hit the ground running’ and are immediately productive compared to first time workers.

Some employers experience character issues such as altercations between workers or not fitting in, but the annual surveys indicate that the proportion experiencing these problems does not appear to be increasing and almost all RSEs, 93% say that the benefits of participating in the scheme outweigh the costs. Most agree that participation in the programme has resulted in better quality and more productive workers, and a more stable workforce than in previous years. Returning workers contribute to this outcome.



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