Poverty in the Pacific

Photo: Tom Greenwood

A lack of basic services such as healthcare, safe water, schools, electricity and telephones remains a serious problem for many communities in the Pacific.

Poverty in the region is a significant and growing problem due to more than two decades of weak economic performance, population growth, urban migration and increasing inequalities.

Pacific Island countries are highly vulnerable to sudden economic or environmental changes as a result of their remoteness, geographical spread, susceptibility to natural disasters, high level of exposure to overseas markets, small internal markets and limited natural resources.

School fees or food?

Many Pacific Island people lack the opportunity to work and earn a steady income. They live below the National Basic Needs Poverty Line*. This means they do not have sufficient funds to meet their own daily needs and the needs of their family. Every day they must face difficult choices on how to spend their limited cash resources. Should they pay school fees, should they buy food for the family, or should they send their children to school without lunch?

Many Pacific Island countries are being pressured by rich countries through the World Trade Organisation to make commitments to further open their economies to foreign goods and services. This will mean Pacific governments will lose much-needed revenue to invest in basic services. They will also lose control over trade policies that will help them develop their economies and end poverty.

Key Facts

Papua New Guinea

  • 28% of the population lives below the poverty line. (2013)
  • 86% of children are enrolled in primary school education. (2012)
  • 60% of the population does not have access to safe water. (2015)

Vanuatu

  • 12.7% of the population lives below the poverty line. (2013)
  • 5.5% of the population does not have access to safe water. (2015)
  • 99.2% of children are enrolled in primary school education. (2012)

Fiji

  • 31% of the population lives below the poverty line. (2013)
  • 4.3% of the population does not have access to safe water. (2015)
  • 88.4% of the rural population has access to adequate sanitation. (2015)

Samoa

  • 26.9% of the population lives below the poverty line. (2013)
  • Lack of employment for young people is a critical issue. Many young people must travel overseas to find work.

Solomon Islands

  • 80.7% of children are enrolled in primary school education. (2012)
  • 19.2% of the population does not have access to safe water. (2015)
  • 84.1% of adults are literate. (2015)

Timor-Leste (East Timor)

  • 70% of the population relies on their small-hold farms for survival.
  • 28.1% of the population does not have access to safe water. (2015)
  • 59.4% of the population does not have access to sanitation facilities. (2015)

Tonga

  • 24% of the population live below the poverty line.
  • 0.4% of the population does not have access to safe water. (2015)
  • 9% of the population do not have access to sanitation facilities. (2015)

Reference: Statistics from the UNDP Human Development Report, The World Factbook and the Asian Development Bank Basic Statistics.

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