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Beyond the 'Triple Win': Pacific Islander farmworkers' use of social media to navigate labour mobility costs and possibilities through the COVID-19 pandemic

journal contribution
posted on 2023-01-24, 03:58 authored by Victoria SteadVictoria Stead, Kirstie PetrouKirstie Petrou
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the global horticultural sector’s reliance on migrant workers. Within Australia, public attention was focused particularly on Pacific Islanders employed through the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) guestworker scheme. With national border closures resulting in significant labour shortages for the horticultural industry, special-purpose exemptions allowing limited groups of SWP workers to enter the country were celebrated as a source of reprieve for struggling farmers. For Pacific Islander workers and communities, however, the prospect of leaving Pacific countries (many of whom had at the time no, or very few, recorded cases of COVID-19) to labour for unspecified periods in a country experiencing much higher rates of infection, was fraught. In this paper, we examine the use of social media by Pacific Islanders to negotiate the costs and benefits of temporary labour migration amid the pandemic. For ni-Vanuatu workers, we argue, Facebook groups facilitated depictions and negotiations of guestwork that were significantly more complex and nuanced than the reductive and bifurcated terms of mainstream media discourse about the SWP scheme. We conclude by highlighting the necessity of foregrounding migrant workers’ voices in evaluating guestworker schemes, and the value of social media as a dynamic space within which this might be done.

History

Journal

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies

ISSN

1369-183X

eISSN

1469-9451

Language

English

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Publisher

ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD