Sunday, May 4, 2008

Poverty News from the Southern Hemisphere

An opinion piece in The Australian by the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union is asking labor unions to rethink their migrant labor policies in the face of a shortage of at least 100,000 workers this year.

Recently the Asian Development Bank assessed that at least one-quarter of the people in the Pacific have insufficient incomes to meet their basic needs.

Today in the East Timorese capital of Dili 58 per cent of young people are out of work; one-third of the population of the strife-torn Solomons capital Honiara live in poverty; and more than half the population of Australia's former colony of Papua New Guinea live below the basic needs poverty line.

Previous migrant worker schemes have suppressed wages of Australian workers. (Sound familiar?) But unions could endorse a new plan if:
  • First, Australians would get the first opportunity to be employed before any migrant labour is deployed.
  • Second, a worker on the scheme can expect to earn the same as an Australian doing the same work.
  • And, most importantly, punitive measures would be taken against any employers who seek to exploit the scheme to drive down wages and conditions in their industry or to treat the foreign workers as some sort of indentured slaves.
An opinion piece in the Cebu Daily News, Philippines, blames U.S. speculation in rice on the high prices in the Philippines and elsewhere, pointing out that rice production has greatly exceeded rice consumption in the last thirty years. The editorial also questions why the Philippines, a top rice producer, is finding it necessary to import 2.1 metric tons of rice this year, saying that government officials in the Arroyo administration are lining their pockets from the supposed shortage.

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