Survival mode: the impact of COVID-19 on working in Papua New Guinea


Flexible work arrangements, losing key workers and restricted travel: these are unprecedented times for managing staff in Papua New Guinea. Gabriella Munoz talks to some top recruiters about the challenges being faced by employers and jobseekers.

HR covid-19

Working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic has become the new normal. Credit: Retha Ferguson/Pexels

With the state of emergency extended in Papua New Guinea and the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases still increasing globally, businesses continue to deal with uncertainty.

The hundreds of expats that call PNG home have been facing a predicament: temporarily leaving the country to be with their families or staying in PNG for as long as the state of emergency and the travel restrictions last.

‘This is a constantly changing predicament companies are trying to manage,’ Fraser Hawkins, Regional Manager PNG & Asia Pacific at Peopleconnexion tells Business Advantage PNG. ‘From my understanding, expats holding work permits or visas are only allowed to travel into the country, travel is not possible on business visas or restricted employment visas, which a lot of companies rely heavily on to bridge the time it takes for a work permit or visa to be approved or processed (up to 3 months).

‘It is important to understand that everyone is going through this together and that we must work through this situation as a team.’

‘The 14-day self-isolation requirements on entering most countries are another huge hurdle keeping expats stuck in PNG with no viable option to return to visit their families. Where this toll gets too much, some businesses will lose key staff.’

This is already happening.

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What about local workers?

Justine Mills, Head Hunters PNG & PNGJobSeek.

Commissioner David Manning, Controller of PNG’s state of emergency, issued a National Emergency Order stating that ‘government employees shall continue to be paid during the National Emergency and shall resume normal duties when the National Emergency ends.’

The Commissioner added that non-essential government employees could work from home and provided a list of essential workers that needed to continue to work throughout the state of emergency, including those working for the PNG Customs Service, Internal Revenue Commission, PNG Defence Force, health sector workers and government payroll staff.

The Commissioner also said that ‘under the State of Emergency, businesses and companies must not lay off or terminate workers because of the COVID-19 situation.’

‘Some staff now have reduced hours, and they have had to embrace the change to keep their job. It’s survival.’

But companies are still adapting to the COVID-19 reality, finding ways of keeping staff (and helping them to adjust to new work scenarios) while covering all their other costs, including rent.

‘Be open and frank about the changes your business is making in order to keep operating and to the need for all staff to play a part in the changes to help the business to keep operating and their jobs to be maintained,’ advises Justine Mills, Director at Head Hunters PNG & PNGJobSeek.

Employers in PNG (and around the world) have come up with initiatives to help keep their employees. ‘Some staff now have reduced hours, and they have had to embrace the change to keep their job. It’s survival,’ explains Mills.

Learning new skills, multitasking and even entering into job-share agreements could help during the state of emergency. ‘It’s a time to try harder to help businesses,’ Mills adds.

The Marape-Steven Government has been looking at ways to help businesses stay afloat during the state of emergency, but inevitably the principal burden will fall on businesses to meet challenges for themselves.

‘It is important to understand that everyone is going through this together and that we must work through this situation as a team,’ says Hawkins. ‘If you go into working from home with a great attitude and keep yourself motivated, you will be able to come out on top.’

Searching and finding

Peopleconexxion’s Fraser Hawkins.

Although this may seem a challenging time for job seekers, there are still job openings (at the time of writing, PNGJobSeek, for example, has 187 opportunities on its website).

‘It’s a tough time time for job seekers,’ admits Mills. She says they should use this time to ‘update their CV, adding recent achievements; they should also create different versions of their CV to apply to different types of jobs, and to look at other job options.’

The recruitment process may take longer than usual as some projects have been put on hold and interviews may take place online, but recruiters in PNG and around the world have relied on Skype and other online tools for a long time to find the right candidates and reliance on these will now grow as all become more familiar with these tools.


  1. James kamari says

    What are other manin challenge took plece during the covid-19 in Papua New Guinea. In performance management areas.

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