The Marshall Islands are a series of islands and atolls located in the Pacific Ocean where poverty is common. Unfortunately, the poverty rate in the Marshall Islands has been increasing in recent years. According to the country’s 2011 census, one-third of the population fell below the basic-needs income level.
In 2015, an economic review of the Marshall Island by the United States’ government found that there was “high unemployment, financial hardship, hunger and poor nutrition.” These issues have only increased the poverty rate in the Marshall Islands.
In the country’s two major cities, Majuro and Ebeye, almost 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. These two islands alone account for more than half of the people living under the basic-needs level in the Marshall Islands.
This problem only increases in the rural islands, with nearly 60 percent of rural Marshallese living on less than $13.60 per person each week. There are some small farms that produce exports such as coconuts and breadfruit, but the atolls have few natural resources and the entire republic relies on imports.
Since nearly three-quarters of the Marshall Island population lives in Majuro and Ebeye, the high unemployment rate there is also a major concern. From 2000 to 2006 the unemployment rate increased almost five percent, going from 30.9 percent to 36 percent. Last year, 60 percent of young adults living in the two urban areas were unemployed.
The Marshall Islands have been receiving aid from the United States under the Compact of Free Association since 1986. The islands received a total of $1 billion through 2001, and then extended the Compact’s agreement for another 20 years until 2024, during which the country will receive $1.5 billion in aid.
The Marshallese won’t be out of luck when the Compact of Free Association ends. A trust fund has been in the works that the Marshall Islands will rely upon after 2024. This trust fund, however, will not be enough alone to improve the poverty rate in the Marshall Islands.
– Mackenzie Fielder