Poverty in Tonga

Poverty in TongaTonga is a group of islands east of Australia and north of New Zealand. Tonga has relatively high rates of education and a productive health care system, however, there is still poverty in Tonga.

As with many countries, the rural people of Tonga tend to be the poorest. Small farmers and fisherman are often the most burdened with poverty, as the contribution of labor is crucial for subsistence, so when there aren’t as many work opportunities the family suffers.

Tonga is made up of several islands, the outermost islands being the the most vulnerable. This vulnerability stems from high transportation costs, which make it difficult for farmers to transport their goods. This provides a larger financial burden and less marketing opportunities. Citizens of the outer islands also do not have access to as many health and social services as they should.

Poverty in Tonga stems from a lack of work opportunities. Work opportunities are limited because the degradation of land over the past couple of decades has made productive land for cultivation scare. Many poor people have emigrated to Australia and New Zealand in search of work opportunities. These outer islands contribute very little to the national economic growth of Tonga.

The economy is very dependent on remittances from overseas donors. In 2015, and estimated 33 percent of Tonga’s GDP was made up of remittances. This dependency has cost Tonga because those remittances have declined, making more citizens financial unsteady.

The number of people living on $1.90 a day was 61.48 percent in 2001, in 2009 it was at 1.09 percent. This shows an incredible amount of improvement orchestrated by the government of Tonga and contributions from the international community. Of course, there is still a wealth disparity throughout the islands based on geography, but poverty in Tonga has diminished significantly throughout the years.

Lucy Voegeli

Photo: Flickr