New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme: An Object Lesson in Policy Making – But for Whom?
Winters, L. Alan
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Since 2007 New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme has been a very successful temporary migration programme allowing Pacific island residents to work for a season in New Zealand. This paper explores the interests, ideas and institutions behind its creation. The scheme solved the horticulture and viticulture sector’s labour shortages, brought income to the Islands and cemented New Zealand’s influence in the Pacific region. It was underpinned by research quantifying the advantages of migration and the decreasing ability of small isolated economies to generate satisfactory incomes in the global economy. It also benefitted from two built-in formal impact evaluations which reassured politicians that it would not survive if it was not effective. In terms of institutions, the World Bank played a key role in bringing the analysts and the interested parties together and helping to design a scheme that assuaged the fears that were typically expressed about temporary migration schemes. The RSE was enshrined in formal agreements between New Zealand and each participating island, but, for implementation, was embedded within existing administrative arrangements. The RSE represents a high point in the design of evidence-based policy which will be difficult to repeat because the building blocks are so rarely all present at the same time and place.