In Vanuatu employers could either hire directly or through an agent. Direct recruitment is facilitated by the Vanuatu Department of Labour, which in the first year also used a work-ready pool of workers from walk-ins who have registered directly with the department. These workers were typically from the more urban areas. In rural areas, direct recruitment and agents relied heavily on community contacts through village councils, again using villages to pre-screen workers. In McKenzie et al. (2008) we study this process, and find that, similar to Tonga, agents and villages looked for people who were strong, hardworking, obedient, healthy, spoke English and were not alcoholics.
Perhaps due to the newness of international migration in Vanuatu, it was not the poorest households who applied and had workers selected for the program, with communities more concerned with sending workers who would represent the village well, and the poorest households not necessarily having information about the program in the first year, or having the resources to finance the costs of the travel process.
Typical work under the RSE includes working on vineyards to prune vines and pick grapes, harvesting apples and kiwifruit and other fruitpicking, and working in the packhouse to sort, grade, and pack the fruit. The work was typically physically demanding, and included work in both cold and hot conditions. In part due to the nature of the work, the majority of RSE workers recruited were male: in the first year in our sample, 82 percent of the ni-Vanuatu RSE workers and 87 percent of the Tongan RSE workers were male. This corresponds closely to the gendermix in the population of RSE workers from these countries in the first year – official data on all workers from Tonga and Vanuatu recruited by 22 May 2008 show that males comprised 78 percent of the ni-Vanuatu and 91 percent of the Tongans recruited by that date (effectively the first season).