Labour in Papua New Guinea

Essay by NagaNutakkiUniversity, Master's May 2008

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Literature reviews attempted on aspects pertainingto most developing countries are not oftensmooth and sometimes a daunting task to analysein any logical manner. It is basically because ofthe conduct of labour (industrial) relations thatseems to have little resemblance to the models anddescriptions familiar in the developed countries.

Therefore, any attempt to review existing literatureon Papua New Guinea (PNG) labour relations isgoing to be not straight forward but challenging.

This is partly because most of the works done onPNG labour relations are descriptive, fragmentedand lack the attention to theory displayed inindustrial relations commentary developed andapplied in the West. In part this is not the faultof the commentators on developing countries ingeneral and PNG in particular. Rather it may beseen as a product of the complexity of the countrylacking a homogenous economic, social and politicalenvironment.

This type of exercise, however, is not free of conventionalcaveats. For instance, most literature reviewsare not truly exhaustive and this piece is noexception.

This work traces writings describing labourrelations between colonisers, employers andindigenous labour from early as 1920s to modernPNG as seen in 2005. Although there had beenlimited scope of (any formal) labour relations inthe 1920s and the subequent few decades, it istaken as a starting point to illustrate arguably thebeginning of serious documentation of indigenousworkers in work arrangements under variouscolonial circumstances. The period also signifiesthe starting point to highlight the progress madeby Papua New Guineans who had seen the formalarrangement of work first as alien under the indenturedlabour scheme (that was demonstratedin a significant way in the Wau-Bulolo goldfieldsof the 1920s and 1930s) and the gradual acceptanceof the concept as an alternative livelihoodover the following decades (Imbun 2006a).

An additional caveat has to do with the term'labour relations' as a multi-dimensional concept.

This literature review acknowledges the 'usual'employment relations between employers andworkers as...