Five Important Things to Know About Poverty in Fiji
Fiji is a beautiful country with a thriving tourism industry, but beneath the surface, it is facing a growing problem of poverty and inequality. Here are five important things you need to know about poverty in Fiji:
1. Political instability has contributed to poverty: Since the first military coup in 1987, poverty in Fiji has been on the rise. The resulting political instability led to a decline in economic performance, exacerbating the issue of poverty.
2. Poverty is a widespread problem: Nearly half of Fiji’s population (45%) lives below the national poverty line, which equates to more than 250,000 individuals. Over 50% of the population lives on less than FJD$ 25 per week, which is not enough to meet their basic needs. The incidence of poverty has increased over time, with Professor Biman Prasad arguing that it is now approaching 50%.
3. Lack of education contributes to poverty: Households with education below the secondary level are at greater risk of poverty. A significant percentage of individuals in Fiji do not attend secondary school due to a lack of income. According to Save the Children Fund Fiji of 1998, 65% of school dropouts are directly linked to poverty. The cost of transportation and school fees force many families to stop sending their kids to school. Despite this, in 2014, the government announced universal free access to primary and secondary education for all children, hoping to reduce the rate of school dropouts.
4. Informal settlements are a growing issue: More than 140,000 individuals live in over 200 informal settlements in Fiji. Over 13,000 of these native land leases will expire between 1997 and 2028. If they are not renewed, at least five households will be displaced for every expired lease, exacerbating the issue of poverty.
5. Income inequality is a major problem: Fiji’s traditional tribal structure means that the land is controlled by tribal chiefs who acquire most of the economic benefit. This, combined with the Pacific Plan, the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), and the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) trade agreements, is contributing to a widening gap between the rich and poor. Economists predict that the poverty rate and inequality gap will only increase in the coming years.
Despite the widespread and growing issue of poverty in Fiji, many politicians and diplomats deny its significance. It is crucial to acknowledge and address this problem to ensure a better future for all Fijians.