Expatriate workers urged to consider all options before departing

Thursday 18 February 2021 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Economy, National

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Expatriate workers urged to consider all options before departing
Muri Beach Club Hotel in Muri. 19011407

Expatriate workers planning to return home are being asked to consider the economic situation of their countries before making their final decision.

This follows the recent availability of an Air New Zealand flight connecting to Fiji from Rarotonga on March 30. A similar charter/repatriation flight has been made available for April 18. This is similar to the December flight where close to 30 Fijians left Rarotonga.

Liana Scott, the president of Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council, said: “There are definitely going to be interest in these flights. It would be interesting to see how many are currently on the unemployment benefit. Furthermore, often there are personal reasons people wish to return home, unwell parents to name an example.”

However, she is asking expatriate workers “to be very sure of their decisions”.

Scott, who is also the general manager of Muri Beach Club Hotel, says Cook Islands is one of the very few Pacific island countries that have done very well in terms of care for its expatriate population.

Things back home for many of these expatriate workers may be tough, she said.

The tourism industry is also wary of a possible labour shortage with expatriate workers returning home and Cook Islanders leaving the country in numbers to take up seasonal work in New Zealand.

Cook Islands government is hoping to form a two-way quarantine free travel with New Zealand by the end of next month, to allow Kiwi visitors to travel here for the first time since the borders closed in March last year.

“Businesses are already talking about the changes that are going to be required within their respective businesses to make adjustments or have no choice but to downsize operations.”

Liana Scott, Manager - Muri Beach Club HOtel

Scott says while they understand and appreciate the need for expatriate employees to return home, they are aware of the difficulty of getting in new labour into the country.

“Particularly for non-New Zealand passport holders who currently have no opportunity to transit New Zealand to get here, so filling or replacing those roles is going to be a challenge,” she said.

“Businesses are already talking about the changes that are going to be required within their respective businesses to make adjustments or have no choice but to downsize operations.”

As per the statistics released last year, there are about 1500 expatriate workers here.

“So, these groups contribute massively to the sustainability of the economy, not to mention, will be very much needed come an open border, particularly with the likely demand.”

Tourism workers are currently under government’s wage subsidy scheme which has been extended until the end of April, 2021.

Scott said they have constantly repeated that “human resources are one of their most important commodities and thus are a priority”.

However, she said an extension of the subsidy in the event of the two-way bubble not occurring, “is very likely”.  

“We also have the envious status of being Covid free – so still one of the absolute safest destinations in the world”.