Economic Development: Reducing Poverty in Mauritius
Off the coast of Madagascar lies the island nation of Mauritius, teeming with pristine beaches, lush forests and ethnic diversity. Poverty in Mauritius has been reduced to just eight percent of the population since the country has flourished economically after winning independence from the United Kingdom in 1968.
Mauritius is an upper middle-income country with sugar, tourism, textiles and financial services mainly driving the economy. Many international entities, especially those interested in doing business with India, South Africa and China, are attracted to Mauritius.
While most Mauritians were employed in the agriculture or fishing industries at the time of independence, these industries now make up less than 10 percent of the labor force. The majority of Mauritians are now employed in construction and industry or restaurants and hotels. Other services also make up a large part of the labor force.
Mauritius has benefited greatly from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) passed by U.S. Congress in 2000. The AGOA allows duty-free exports to the U.S. market. Mauritius has increased exports to the U.S. by 40 percent from 2000-2014.
Like other developing nations, income inequality increased in Mauritius during the rapid industrialization. However, the government has established social welfare programs to eradicate poverty in Mauritius. This includes food stamps, social services, micro-financing to small businesses, female empowerment in the labor market and the ZEP program that seeks to raise primary school exam scores in underperforming schools. The government of Mauritius also provides Social Security for those over 60, free primary and secondary education and free healthcare.
Creoles of African descent are especially vulnerable to poverty in Mauritius. Mauritian creoles are descendants of slaves brought from Africa to Mauritius in the 18th and 19th centuries. Creoles have the weakest sense of identity out of all the Mauritian ethnic groups, as plantation owners intentionally mixed slaves from various ethnic groups together to eliminate any family ties, shared languages or any other forms of social organization.
Studies show that poverty occurs more often in households with a large number of dependent children, female-headed households, single-parent households and single person households.
In 2015 the government began developing the Marshall Plan to eradicate poverty in Mauritius. The plan will focus on:
- Social protection
- Social inclusion and community development
- Access to education
- Employment for sustainable livelihood, especially for vulnerable groups
- Youth economic empowerment
- Access to electricity, sanitation, water, transportation, and ICT (information, communications and technology) services
- Environmental protection
– Cassie Lipp