Development and Migration in Papua New Guinea



Development and Migration in Papua New Guinea
Development and Migration in
Papua New Guinea
Albert Ayius
“The impact of labour migration on the development of present-day Papua New
Guinea is closely related to labour flows which will contribute to the improvement of
living standards. The Government must develop an appropriate long-term National
Labour Policy which will facilitate the appropriate flows of people, and enable the
labour force to efficiently deliver services to the people in both urban and rural
There are many important, practical implications associated with development and
migration in Papua New Guinea, and how we can devise a development plan, to
effectively utilise related labour flows, to improve living standards.
Secondary data concerning "explanatory designs" and personal observations have
formed the basis of hypothetical, but practical, propositions attached to development
and migration in Papua New Guinea. Labour migration is one outcome of politicosocioeconomic forces that contribute to the development of our nation. Also, it is an
essential catalyst in the development process, and plays an important ongoing role in
PNG's development.
Our key issue is to look at the alternatives for PNG when devising an approach within
which labour flows can be directed and can contribute to the improvement of people's
living standards.
Historical background
The early settlers in New Guinea migrated from Asia at least 50 000 years ago in
search of a better lifestyle, which is a characteristic of how migration has been a part
of development throughout history. The first European contacts were by the Spanish
and Portuguese in the sixteenth century, in their search for spices and cheap labour,
and this represented PNG's initial induction into the ‘global village’. The nineteenth
century signified the beginning of the colonisation period, involving colonial
administrations from Germany, Great Britain, and Australia. The colonial period
attracted different flows of Papua New Guinean and expatriate workers to the centres
of development, and this portrayed a new phase in Papua New Guinea’s development.
During the subsequent years, the Territory of Papua New Guinea established a
National Constitution, an Eight Point Plan (EPP), and a National Development
Strategy (NDS). The Eight Aims and NDS were in contrast to the development
strategy under the Australian Administration, at least from 1964 onwards, and
concentrated heavily on economic growth without teaching Papua New Guineans how
to incorporate the acquired knowledge and skills so as to help and manage themselves
and prepare for independence. As a result, after Australia granted full independence
to PNG on 16 September, 1975, it became obvious that the NDS and EPP were seen
by many as "mere rhetoric", and inappropriate to PNG's development needs. This
Development and Migration in Papua New Guinea 2
possibly was because of the inadequate training of human resources to utilise the
resources it had, and furthermore, the plans and strategies were foreign concepts. On
the other hand, it can be argued that the only beneficial strategy was the national
principles, from which many current national policies have emerged. We must
understand development in order to explain and link migration with the improvement
of people's well-being because it embodies flows, such as other people, technology,
money transactions, information, and ideas within and across Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea has a total mainland and island area of some 460,700 km and an
estimated population of more than 4.5 million. According to the 1990 census, some
14.3 percent live in urban areas, which indicates a population density of
approximately 21 persons per 7.6 sq km. The population also included approximately
33,000 expatriates, including some 17, 000 Australians, who were mostly employed
on a contract basis. The presence of expatriates is illustrative of the way in which
labour migration has been a part of the country's development process.
It is also important to acknowledge that PNG is rich in terms of its agricultural land,
mineral deposits, extensive forests, fisheries resources, hydroelectricity potential, and
its strategic location in the Pacific and Asian Regions. This has attracted migrant
workers to the core centres of developmental activities. On the practical level, there is
an imbalance between the range of available activities in the less developed areas, and
this has induced many Papua New Guineans to migrate to the more attractive
destinations. Many analysts would identify such a pattern of development and
migration, as being associated with inappropriate planning and leading to the current
increasing law and order problems, misappropriation of funds, misuse of public
office, and different forms of crime. Therefore, PNG must carefully plan for an
appropriate and realistic development model, in which labour flows in PNG should
reflect a positive policy directive towards the improvement of people's well-being.
The importance of development and migration
In the complex field of development, there are three schools of thought modernisation, dependency, and the world system with its new visions. All of these
concepts have some relevance to a nation such as PNG, as they seem to incorporate
those appropriate elements of development, which will contribute to the improvement
of people's quality of life. Migration is also a complex phenomenon, which interacts
with development. Labour migration is one aspect of migration, and is defined as ‘a
flow of labour-motivated migration for work purposes’. It is the dynamics of
capitalist development which determines migration’s push and pull factors within any
political jurisdiction. According to our conceptual model of the interaction of
development and migration, these factors include all political, social, and economic
In PNG, these factors influence the temporary and permanent flows of all people
within, to, and from the centres of economic activity. Although there are insufficient
data on migration, it must be acknowledged that each of these flows contributes
towards the overall development of PNG. Therefore, it is important that the
Government of PNG must establish a partnership with all other government
institutions and departments – as well as the private sector - to plan ways that labour
migration can become an essential element and catalyst in the country's development
Development and Migration in Papua New Guinea 3
process. The government should plan and develop policies for a type of development
that is consistent with the prevailing realities, and should determine how labour flows
should be directed as a means of improving people's living standards.
Development and migration are important and complex concepts which interact in the
development process, and draw on PNG's past experiences. We propose that PNG
must have a comprehensive development model that will be able to provide
appropriate strategies in accordance with its National Principles, while at the same
time, coordinating all other policies within other government departments. A labour
migration policy is essential, and should contribute to the improvement of people's
living standards. However, it must have proper government support if we are to plan
for a better Papua New Guinea in the twenty-first century.
The impact of labour migration on the development of present-day Papua New
Guinea is closely related to labour flows which will contribute to the improvement of
living standards. Such labour flows have influenced development trends in the past,
and are expected to influence them now, and in the future. Our conceptual model
calls for a practical, realistic development approach, which will consider the future of
PNG, determine the nature of its relevant characteristics, and facilitate the types of
appropriate labour flows. These potential labour flows should be the core of policy
initiatives which can contribute towards the country's development strategy by reeducating and linking specific populations with new ideas, money transactions,
knowledge, and skills. The PNG Government must develop an appropriate National
Labour Policy, which, in the long term, will facilitate the appropriate flows of people,
and enable the labour force to efficiently deliver services to the people in both the
urban and rural areas of PNG.
The implications of the interaction of development and labour migration need to be
carefully presented to the people in such a way that they are fully conscious of the
likely outcomes of the process. This should highlight the importance of national
development, avoid any further doubt or inconvenience, and simultaneously, allow for
the planning of appropriate and realistic strategies that link development with labour
migration. This is one of the important outcomes of the political, social, and
economic activities that influence the flow of internal and external migrant workers to
the centres of development. PNG must plan its development, so that it can influence
the types of labour and skills that must be provided to bring benefits to the people.
Appropriate development strategies, in education, awareness through community
empowerment of appropriate human resources development personnel, and trained
personnel to eradicate the increasing law and order problem are essential. Labour is
an essential element, which is at the heart of development, coordinates and links other
development activities.
The day-to-day interaction of development and migration is complex, and
continuously impacts on the development process.
Labour migration is an essential agent in the development process, and has been
proven to be such throughout history. Through its embodiment and its links to other
forms of global flows, it can contribute, in one way or another, to the improvement of
Development and Migration in Papua New Guinea 4
people's living standards. Although development and migration are two different
concepts, they go hand-in-hand, and development drives labour migration.
Papua New Guinea must plan its development carefully. Correct policies and careful
planning will influence the type of flows that will enable the country to actively
participate and compete in the international arena, both for its own benefit and for the
contribution it can make to other countries in terms of development.
As the saying goes, “if you plan for a year, plant a seed; if you plan for ten years,
plant a tree; and if you plan for a hundred years, teach the people the skills and
knowledge to help themselves”.
The Author
Albert Ayius is a Research Fellow in the Political and Legal Division of the National
Research Institute, Papua New Guinea.