FYI: Employment in PNG Tuna Processing

The largest segment of employment of PNG nationals in the tuna sector is in tuna processing. Much of the impetus in fostering tuna industry development in PNG has come from recognition of the need for
increased employment in a country with chronic unemployment, pervasive underemployment and dismal development indicators. Various estimates have stated the level of direct employment provided by tuna processing plants in the country during the period 2011—2012 as being from 5,800 to nearly 7,000 people. A 2012 report gave the total as around 6,700, 98 percent of whom were PNG nationals.

Taking stated production levels and employment for the three canneries, it is estimated that for daily production of up to around 150 tons (the average maximum processed so far by any one facility) an average of 20—24 employees are required for each ton of tuna processed.

The labor-intensive nature of work within tuna processing facilities and difficult working conditions (i.e. standing for long periods each day, working in hot/damp conditions), results in canneries actively seeking young, fit workers with an emphasis on those between 18—35 years of age. The maximum age for production-line workers in PNG is said to be around 45.

In July, 2014 a new minimum wage requirement became effective in PNG. The new rate is pegged at K3.20 (US$1.17 in March, 2015). It is estimated that total annual gross wages that will be paid under the new
requirement is on the order of K35 million to K40 million (US$12.8 million to US$14.6 million).

Experience in large industrial tuna processing investments in PNG so far (RD, SSTC, Frabelle, Majestic) demonstrates that access to PNG’s tuna resources is the main driver behind investment. Companies investing in the PNG tuna industry do so to achieve core business interests, and this includes investing to secure long-term access to resources. In the past all companies have limited production costs by reducing the percentage of catch processed in PNG and by keeping wages low. This keeps them competitive in the global industry, which in turn shapes the nature of tuna-based development in PNG. New requirements to process greater amounts of catch within PNG will test the viability of processors, some of which are already calling for additional government support to offset their higher costs of doing business in the country.

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