Tonga tops list for reliance on remittances and graduates going abroad for work

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Tonga depends more on money sent home by migrant workers than any other country in the Pacific a new report says.

According to a World Bank report, remittances make up more than a third of the kingdom’s GDP in 2015.

At 33 percent of GDP, that places Tonga fourth in the world in terms of reliance on remittances.

The World Bank also says that Tonga ranks highest in the Pacific and sixth in the world for the percentage of tertiary educated people going overseas to find work.

A leading economist says the limited number public sector jobs drives many well educated Tongans to look for work outside the kingdom.

Christopher Edmonds from the Asian Development Bank told Radio New Zealand earlier this year that migrant workers usually maintained tied with their families and sent money home.

He said this was particularly so after disasters and in the wake of Cyclone Ian there had been a noticeable increase in remittances.

Edmonds said remittances continue to form a major part of the Tongan economy despite their decline following the global financial crisis

Returning migrant workers brought investment capital and skills that could benefit the economy.

Edmonds said Tonga also benefitted from participation in seasonal agricultural worker programmes in New Zealand and Australia.

According to Radio Tonga, about 12,000 Tongans are now working under Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program and New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme.

As Kaniva News reported earlier this week, 2179 Tongan workers are in Australia under the Pacific Harvest Scheme’s seasonal worker programme which sends workers to rural areas.

Tongan Minister for Internal Affairs, Sosefo Fe’ao Vakata, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation many Tongan students did not have jobs and looked to Australia for opportunities.

Elsewhere in the Pacific, the World Bank says 18 percent of Samoa’s GDP comes from remittances and 14 percent for the Marshall Islands.

The main points

  • Tonga depends more on money sent home by migrant workers than any other country in the Pacific a new report says.
  • According to a World Bank report, remittances make up more than a third of the kingdom’s GDP in 2015.
  • The World Bank also says that Tonga ranks highest in the Pacific and sixth in the world for the percentage of tertiary educated people going overseas to find work.
  • A leading economist says the limited number public sector jobs drives many well educated Tongans to look for work outside the kingdom.

For more information

Migration and Remittances Handbook 2016 (World Bank)

Tonga most dependent in Pacific on remittances (Radio New Zealand)

Tonga wants more rural work visas in Australia and hopes they will ease youth unemployment (Kaniva News)

Remittances still vital for Tonga (Radio New Zealand)

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