Suva – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have partnered with the Government of Tuvalu to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on Tuvalu’s labour market, focusing on businesses, employees and households. The assessment was conducted under the project Enhancing Food Security and Building Socioeconomic Resilience to Covid-19 in Tuvalu supported by the United Nations (UN) COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi Partner Trust Fund.
The assessment was executed through a field survey and focused group meetings in collaboration with the National Tripartite Committee made up of relevant Government departments, and employer and employee representatives. Conducted from 11 to 21 November 2020, the survey specifically concentrated on the business sector (32 businesses), employees’ sector (189 workers), unemployed sector (23 laid-off employees) and 87 remittance-dependent households.
The impact of COVID-19 on the Pacific region has been mixed, with a more substantial toll on tourism-dependent countries. In Tuvalu, the survey results indicate that the effects during the immediate state of emergency have been marginal as the Government and public sector who employ majority of the workforce have continued with operations. This is further bolstered by the fact that remittances from seafarers and the diaspora communities have remained steady. However, the situation may deteriorate even further through reduced hours and loss of income if the pandemic persists.
The Department of Labour, IOM and ILO also held a roundtable meeting on 10 March 2021 to discuss the findings and prioritize the key recommendations. The meeting brought together senior officials from government, non-government organizations, private sector representatives as well as participants who were involved in the survey. The report will be raised with the Government Advisory Committee for consideration and further dialogue in an effort to connect the report’s findings and recommendations to existing plans and national polices that look to boost economic recovery in Tuvalu.
Amongst the recommendations included in the report, participants emphasized the need to strengthen innovative food policies considering that the pandemic has now slowed down the import of supplies into Tuvalu. “We can survive without infrastructure development in the country, but without food, we cannot survive. We need to encourage our locals to start producing locally and not depend on imported foods so that we can live healthily,” said one of the participants during the group discussion.
In addition, the report also identified the need to upskill and renew existing maritime qualifications to ensure that seafarers who remained in Tuvalu due to the pandemic were work-ready when borders opened again. In coordination with the Tuvalu Maritime Training Institute (TMTI) and the Department of Labour, a seafarers refresher course was organized with 23 seafarers from 2 to 23 March 2021.
In her opening remarks, Acting Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Public Works, Infrastructure, Environment, Labour, Meteorology and Disaster Palipa Lauti emphasized how important seafarers were to the development of the country.
Solomon Kantha, Chief of Mission of IOM in Fiji said, “I hope this training will provide a platform for job security for seafarers in the future.”
According to Labour Officer Meafou Leneuoti Brian, “Many seafarers registered for this course and were happy for the opportunity to renew existing maritime certifications.”
“As a key part of ILO’s mandate, we will continue supporting skills development to improve the employability of workers, productivity of enterprises and the inclusiveness of economic growth in Pacific Island Countries,” said Matin Karimli, Director of the ILO Pacific Office.
A second cohort will potentially be funded by ILO under the Pacific Climate Change Migration and Human Security (PCCMHS) programme.