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More opportunities for Tongan youth and job-seekers

world bank

SYDNEY, Australia – September 4, 2018: 12.20pm (WORLD BANK): A new project approved by the World Bank’s board of executive directors Monday is set to help tackle Tonga’s significant high school drop-out rates, and better prepare students for the transition into jobs in local and overseas workforces.

The Skills and Employment for Tongans Project will support the Tongan government to establish a cash transfer programme to address the financial constraints many households face in accessing and keeping children in secondary school. The project will also ensure technical and vocational education and training (TVET) courses are improved to help students build skills to make them more employable in Tonga, as well as through Australian or New Zealand employment programmes.

“The government is very concerned with early dropouts from secondary schools and increasing youth unemployment and requested the World Bank assistance,” said Tonga’s Finance Minister Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa.

“For the FY2019 budget we have increased commitments to support quality education, including minimising student drop outs and linking with skills training opportunities employable firstly in Tonga, and where available, employment opportunities overseas – all aimed at reducing family hardships in Tonga and increasing youth employability.”

While primary school enrolment in Tonga is extremely high, secondary school dropout rates have reached up to 3,000 students annually, often due to household budget constraints or students seeking to get into the workforce earlier. Male students drop out rates are higher than female, despite women being significantly less engaged in the labour force than men.

“More than half of Tonga’s population is aged 24 years or younger; and we need to ensure they are armed with the skills to succeed,” said Michel Kerf, Country Director for Papua New Guinea and Pacific Islands.

“Ensuring young Tongans are better equipped with the skills to fulfill their potential is an outstanding investment in Tonga’s future.”

For those students who do undertake further TVET, courses are not equipping them with the skills to participate in overseas work programmes, like the Australian Seasonal Worker Programme or the New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, which both provide valuable remittances to families who remain at home.

TVET courses are also often failing to provide Tongan youth with adequate preparation for higher skilled migration programmes, such as Australia’s Pacific Labour Scheme, which are expected to open up to Tongans in the near future.

“We are pleased to be supporting the Tongan government to keep students in secondary school, and to provide financial incentives and more targeted vocational training programs for Tongans looking to participate in overseas work programmes,” said Kerf.

Skills and Employment for Tongans will be funded through a US$18.5 million grant from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the most in-need countries.

A US$2.4 million grant from the Australia-Pacific Islands Partnership Trust Fund will also support the project.

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