Hero photograph
Picking nectarines
Photo by Phil King

Transient workers' health

Lesley Brook —

Seasonal workers face barriers to accessing healthcare in rural communities.

The Alexandra and Clyde communities are in a prime fruit-growing area of New Zealand. Orchards employ transient labour at busy periods, including many international workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme. These RSE workers have been identified as a vulnerable population by a team of our Nursing learners. 

The team's community needs assessment of the Alexandra/Clyde area included a foot survey and talking with stakeholders. The RSE workers are disadvantaged by language and culture challenges. They try to minimise their living costs in New Zealand, so that they can send as much of their earnings as possible home to their families. As a result, they often do not own a vehicle, and are dependent on employer provided transport to and from work, or to accommodation provided at work. With limited public transport options, accessing health services is difficult for them, and they may also be reluctant to take time off work to seek healthcare.

These issues are not unique to Alexandra and Clyde; the welfare of RSE workers in New Zealand is a systemic problem. The Nursing learners therefore decided to write a submission to Immigration New Zealand, outlining the barriers and enablers to healthcare access that have been identified in the research literature, and urging them to address these.