Migration, family and networks: Timorese seasonal workers' social support in Australia

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 2021, 62, (3), pp. 313-330
Issue Date:
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This paper explores the social support of Timorese workers under the Australian Seasonal Workers Programme (SWP). The SWP, which allows citizens from Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste to work in Australian agriculture for six to nine months, has become the major source of remittances for seasonal workers from Timor-Leste. The paper describes how access to the internet and the availability of social media devices can help to maintain long-distance family relationships, support migrants' well-being and alleviate the effects of socio-spatial segregation to some extent. However, the need to earn remittances in a fixed period of time forces them to accept a trade-off in the quality of their social and personal lives in rural Australia. According to the New Economics of Labour Migration (NELM), isolation and separation from families are part of a rational household strategy to accumulate remittances. This paper argues that insufficient attention has been paid to the social costs borne by workers and left-behind households and that the sustainability of the SWP depends to a large extent on the ability of workers to find ways of meeting their needs for social support. The analysis is based on data from participant observation and semi-structured interviews with 50 Timorese seasonal workers in Australia and Timor-Leste.
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