Fiji is made up of more than 300 volcanic and coral islands, approximately half of which are inhabited. There are two major islands Viti Levu, Vanua Levu. The capital, Suva is located on Viti Levu.
Fiji's major sources of revenue are sugar, tourism, garment manufacturing, mining, logging and fisheries. It is also the major administrative centre for the Pacific region.
Fiji became independent in 1970 following almost a century of British colonial rule. During British rule, many indentured labourers were brought from India to work in the sugarcane fields. Indo-Fijians now constitute approximately 44 percent of Fiji's population.
Since achieving independence in 1970, Fiji has experienced four coups – two in 1987, one in May 2000 and most recently in 2006. The reason given for all three coups has been concern over Indo-Fijian dominance of government and the economy. While there has been relative stability since the election of a new government in 2001, the uncertainty of land tenure is causing disquiet and tension between and within ethnic groups.
Fiji is relatively urbanised and enjoys higher levels of economic development compared to other Melanesian countries. However, poverty and inequality in access to basic services are still apparent, particularly in rural areas. For example, only 12 percent of the rural population has access to adequate sanitation.
In both indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijian communities, women face discrimination and inequality. Violence against women is widespread and is noted as a key area of concern in the Fiji Government’s Women’s Plan of Action 1999-2008. While women’s representation in national decision-making is slowly growing, there remains a large disparity between the numbers of women and men in political leadership. Similarly, while women can play important roles in the indigenous Fijian chiefly system, traditional decision-making processes are generally dominated by men.
Young people between the ages of 15 and 29 make up 27 percent of Fiji's population, and another 32 percent is aged under 14 years. Due to changing community structures and insufficient employment and livelihood opportunities, young people are particularly vulnerable to social and economic marginalisation.
Stats and facts
- Capital: Suva
- Population: 854,000 (UN 2005)
- Language: English, Fijian, Hindi
- Religion: Christianity, Hinduism, Islam
- Adult literacy: 93 percent
- Life Expectancy: 68 years
- Government: Republic
- Access to safe water: 47 percent