Boasting gorgeous beaches and pale blue water, Antigua and Barbuda is a popular hub for tourism, making it one of the most economically successful nations in the Caribbean. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism comprises 60.4 percent of Antigua and Barbuda’s GDP. Despite the influx of tourism-related wealth, 22 percent of the islands’ occupants live below the poverty line, raising the question: what are the causes of poverty in Antigua and Barbuda?
While tourism has undoubtedly boosted Antigua and Barbuda‘s economy, generating 54.3 percent of the nation’s total employment, the unique temporality of the tourism industry has left some citizens in the lurch. People working in the tourism industry have a reliable income during the tourist season. However, these individuals find themselves unemployed during the off-season and unable to afford basic necessities for parts of the year.
Demographics also play a role in the poverty status of people living in Antigua and Barbuda. Women in Antigua and Barbuda are employed in private sector and tourism jobs even more than men, and are less likely to be poverty-afflicted compared with women in other developing nations. However, single mothers shouldering the unshared financial burdens of parenthood are still exceptionally vulnerable to life below the poverty line. Poor households typically have 5.2 children, while more affluent households average only 2.8 children. Over a third of Antigua and Barbuda’s population living in food poverty is under the age of 14.
Overcrowded living situations correlate with insufficient resources, such that poor families often cannot afford to send their children to school, making these children more vulnerable to poverty in adulthood. A primary school education reduces the probability of poverty by 91 percent.
While statistics reflecting the poverty status of young people in Antigua and Barbuda may seem disheartening, UNICEF is confident that the prevalence of poverty in the nation’s younger demographic may actually help effectively aim poverty prevention efforts. By targeting families with more children, UNICEF hopes to provide aid to those who need it most. Additionally, the organization has proposed school feeding programs to provide proper nutrition to children living in food poverty.
While the causes of poverty in Antigua and Barbuda function at personal levels like employment and family size, there are also larger factors such as flawed infrastructure, which makes public facilities and social services difficult for citizens to access. Infrastructural weaknesses are particularly threatening for nations like Antigua and Barbuda, which is vulnerable to environmental catastrophes such as hurricanes.
On September 5, Hurricane Irma devastated Antigua and Barbuda. Barbuda was left in shambles, and nearly all its inhabitants have lost their homes. Prime Minister Gaston Browne immediately implored the world for aid contributions, and the Red Cross has already provided over $120,000 to support disaster relief efforts throughout the Caribbean. However, much more aid is still needed to help those who have been affected regain and rebuild their lives. Many organizations have already rallied to assist the people in need.
– Mary Efird