Causes of Poverty in St. Vincent and the GrenadinesSaint Vincent and the Grenadines is a small island nation in the Caribbean that has faced a number of challenges in the past decade. The nation has a population growth rate of negative 0.31 percent and approximately 15 percent of the total population was unemployed in 2008. There are several causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, but most are related to its failing economy and poor education system.

The failure of the banana industry around 2008 pushed much of the population into unemployment or poverty, and the sudden rise of the construction industry has created an income gap. There were very low wages across the country and few job opportunities, leading to a poverty rate of 30.2 percent. The nation needs to focus on better integration into the global economy and on creating a more competitive national economy.

Low education levels has also been one of the larger causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. While there are programs in place, such as the School Meals and Textbooks program, to help low income families educate their children, many poor children still do not attend school everyday. Literacy rates were at 84 percent in 2008, but younger generations did have higher levels than older generations.

Gender inequality with relation to access to education is another of the causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In 2008, it was reported that nearly 50 percent of women had their first pregnancy between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. It was also noted that the labor market was inherently biased and women needed much higher levels of education to be able to compete with men. Households with a female head tended to be much poorer, and there was no formal legislation to deal with gender discrimination in the workplace.

Strides have been made, however, toward reducing poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In terms of the economy, tourism has become a larger sector and has created more jobs. With increased tourism has come increased construction, and that has also created the need for more labor. In terms of education, in 2000 the government set a number of goals that were to be achieved by 2015. These goals focused on providing good quality and compulsory primary education to all children, but particularly girls and ethnic minorities, and improving literacy rates and access to higher education for both boys and girls.

While there is not a lot of recent data about poverty in the nation, these goals are quite progressive and have shown solid attempts to reduce the causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. With continued effort from the government, the small island nation should be able to develop further and improve the quality of life for its citizens.

Liyanga De Silva

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