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Friday, October 20, 2006

Regional Conference on globalisation and labour markets convened at USP

Pacific Island countries face unique challenges due to their size and distance from major markets and with the increasing number of young people entering the labour market, finding productive employment is becoming one of the major challenges for governments in the region, says Head of Delegation for the European Commission in the Pacific, Dr Roberto Ridofli.

Dr Ridofli expressed these sentiments during his Chief Guest address to participants and guests at the opening of the Regional Conference on Institutions, Globalisation and their Impact on Labour Markets at the University of the South Pacific on Tuesday.

He pointed out that policy makers and politicians will be struggling in the next five to 10 years to create those opportunities, as sustainable economic growth is likely to remain elusive in many of the small island countries.

"Historically, many of the Pacific Islanders were able to seize the opportunities of labour mobility, skilled and unskilled by moving to Australia and New Zealand. These opportunities for mobility are becoming ever more critical and difficult. This very issue is going to affect the relationship between Australia/New Zealand and the Pacific more than anything else in the foreseeable future."

He added that it was true that various studies, including a World Bank report, have highlighted the need the to look at the issues of labour mobility seriously and have pointed out that tangible benefits will arise as a result of more mobility of unskilled labour.

"There is already evidence of this in relation to the role of remittances in the development of Tonga and Samoa. Fiji is now receiving about $500 million in remittances – exceeding net earnings from sugar, tourism, garments, fish, gold and water."

He pointed out that the debate on labour mobility, in particular to Australia and New Zealand, must include the issue of creating more productive employment opportunities.

"This deserves more attention as a major agenda point for policy makers in the region. Further research into labour market issues, industrial relations, labour legislation and other institutional changes, which are requires to reap the benefits from increasing regional and global economic integration, will assist policy makers in the region to formulate appropriate policies."

The objective of this European Funded three day conference, which ended yesterday, was to enhance capacity of governments and the social partners to carry out this important task more effectively. The conference also aims to bring into focus contemporary issues affecting the labour market in the PICs with respect to changes in the global economic environment. As a tool to help constituents improve their collection and analysis of labour market information, a set of policy papers, country report on labour market and regional data based on labour market was also tabled.

Several papers on various themes relating to globalisation and labour markets were presented by leading academics, economists and senior government representatives from 14 regional countries including Solomon Islands. A Solomon Islands Country Paper on Labour Market was presented by Ronald Unusi, Commissioner of Labour and Noelyn Biliki, Director Economic Division.

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