10 Facts About Living Conditions in Fiji
Fiji is a South Pacific country made up hundreds of islands that is home to just over 900,000 people. While some aspects of development show progress, there is still room for improvement in others. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about living conditions in Fiji.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Fiji

  1. Poverty. More than half the population of Fiji live below the poverty line with more than 400,000 people living on $25 a week. The elderly and those with an incomplete education are most susceptible to conditions of poverty. The United Nations Development Program has outlined nine recommendations targeted at reducing poverty in all Pacific island nations including Fiji. The report notes that it would take just 1.7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Fiji’s capital city, Savu, in order to fund a grant for all children under 5 years of age, and that such grants would lead to a 10 percent decrease in the number of households living in poverty. The UNDP report also highlights how a similar strategy targeting health care for pregnant women and the elderly would yield beneficial results.
  2. Access to Clean Water. In Fiji, 12 percent of the population or 220,000 people lack regular access to safe water. As a result, too many households are at risk of contracting water-borne diseases such as typhoid fever. The government has started a campaign to encourage safer hygiene and sanitation practices with the slogan: “Boil It, Cook It, Peel It, or Forget It.”
  3. Climate Change. In Fiji, the poor are affected most harshly by climate change. The sea level is projected to rise 17-35 cm by 2065. If this projection turns out to be accurate, that means 30 percent of Fijians live in areas that will be underwater in the next 40 years. An estimated $4.5 billion over 10 years is needed to prevent and mitigate the damage of climate change. The World Bank notes that initiatives must focus on “building inclusive and resilient towns and cities; improving infrastructure services; climate-smart agriculture and fisheries; conserving ecosystems and building socioeconomic resilience.”
  4. Leading Causes of Death. Nutritional diseases such as ischemic heart disease, diabetes and stroke are now the three leading causes of death in Fiji. The numbers of deaths that can be attributed to heart disease are more than double those which can be attributed to diabetes. The rise of heart disease in Fijians can be directly connected to activities like smoking (26.8 percent for men and 7.8 percent for women), and a lack of physical activity. However, dietary problems in Fiji (such as low-quality foods lacking vitamins and minerals) are the biggest contributing factor to Fiji’s nutritional diseases. The government has issued a food and health guideline, recommending exercise at least 30 minutes a day and the reduction of sugary drinks as easy solutions for Fijians.
  5. Financial Literacy. Over 70 percent of people living in Pacific Island countries like Fiji, do not have bank accounts. However, in recent years, there has been a big push to encourage financial literacy through initiatives like AZN’s program MoneyMinded which teaches money management skills online. The program — which is free to all users — has reached 12,000 people to date.
  6. Unemployment. The unemployment rate in Fiji averaged 7.1 percent from 1982 until 2017 and stood at 6.31 percent in 2017. In September of 2018, Hon. Jone Usamate announced the National Employment Policy (NEP). This is an initiative to create better access to credit for those who earn their living in the informal economy, promote access to overseas jobs, encourage and educate young Fijians on entrepreneurship. The program also strives to increase access to employment opportunities for mothers in Fiji. The current statistics for labor force participation currently stands at 76.4 percent for men compared with 37.4 percent for women. Of note, one in four women are searching for work, compared to one in six men. The NEP encourages educators and employers to work together to provide more marketable training for those seeking to enter the job market.
  7. Education. The government has made education a top priority in its budget allocation in recent years as educational attainment rates remain low. The National Topper Scheme (NTS), working to combat this problem by providing scholarships to students at the top of their class. The scholarship only covers areas of study that the Fijian Government considers to be a priority for its country such as medicine and engineering. About 70 percent of Year 13 students go to university with NTS scholarships. In addition to the NTS scholarship, the Fijian government also offers tertiary education loans.
  8. Crime. The most common types of crimes in Fiji are property crimes like burglary and theft. Crime is most prevalent in the city of Savu. Violent crimes are common but occur at a lower rate than they do in most American cities. In an effort to reduce these crimes, the Fijian police work with civilians in communities, and organizations, to expand their watch, to report suspicious behavior and to help improve safety. This serves to better integrate police work into the community. Murder rates have also fallen by nearly half in the past 10 years.
  9. Maternal Mortality. Maternal mortality rates have fallen from 156/100,000 live births in 1970 to 26 out of 100,000 births in 2000. There has been a 37 percent drop in the maternal mortality rate, which corresponds with a 44 percent drop in mortality for children and 40 percent for infants since 1990.
  10. Reproductive Health. According to the Ministry of Public Health, only half the population regularly uses birth control. The main problem for people is access, and Fijians in rural areas have the hardest time getting birth control. All mothers are given information about different contraceptive methods postnatally while in a hospital, and birth control and condoms have been made widely available to those who live in urban areas.

As these top 10 facts about living conditions in Fiji indicate, while improvements have been made, there are still a number of areas to be addressed to raise the standard of living for Fijians.

– Sarah Bradley
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Fiji
Fiji is a widely visited holiday destination. The country is well-known for being home to some of the happiest people on earth. However, for decades Fiji has been suffering from the issue of growing poverty and inequality. Here are five facts about poverty in Fiji.

  1. Since the first military coup in 1987, poverty in Fiji has continued to increase. The coup resulted in political instability leading to a decline in economic performance and a growing issue of poverty.
  2. In Fiji, 45% of the population lives below the national poverty line, more than 250,000 individuals. According to economic surveys over 50% of the population lives on less than FJD$ 25 a week and cannot meet their basic needs. The increase over time is apparent — in 1977, 15% of the population were living below the poverty rate, in 1991 this increased to 25.2% and in 2003 to about 34.4%. Professor Biman Prasad argues that the incidence of poverty is now more than 45% and approaching 50%.
  3. Households with education below the secondary level are at greater risk of poverty. A significant percentage of individuals in Fiji do not attend secondary school due to a lack of income. According to Save the Children Fund Fiji of 1998, 65% of school dropouts are directly linked to poverty. The cost of transportation and school fees force many families to stop sending their kids to school. Additionally, many of the schools are in poor conditions in need of basic materials. Nonetheless, in 2014 the government announced universal free access to primary and secondary education for all children, hoping to lower the rate of school dropouts.
  4. According to the latest estimates, more than 140,000 individuals live in over 200 informal settlements. More than 13,000 of these native land leases will expire between 1997 and 2028, meaning that if they are not renewed, at least five households are displaced for every expired lease.
  5. The income gap between the rich and the poor is very wide and continues to increase. Fiji’s traditional tribal structure is still preserved meaning the land is controlled by tribal chiefs who acquire most of the economic benefit. To make matters worse, Fiji is in the midst of a trade deal that economists predict will increase the poverty rate and inequality gap. The Pacific Plan, together with the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) and the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) trade agreements partnered and tied with a regional economic zone.

Despite the apparent rate of poverty in Fiji, many politicians and diplomats in Fiji deny the problem and downplay its importance.

Marcelo Guadiana

Photo: Flickr

Improving Literacy Rates
has a literacy rate of 33.6 percent that needs to be addressed. Despite many criticisms, Dr. Mahendra Reddy, Minister for Education, argues that Fiji had started improving literacy rates by including libraries in schools.

Dr. Rosi Lagi, a university academic, argues that in order to improve the low literacy rate, Fiji has to improve the way students are taught at schools. In particular, he criticizes the teaching style of many teachers and suggests that teachers be more creative in drawing the attentions of students in class.

Fiji has been receiving aid from the EU, which has significantly helped education programs in Fiji. Fiji and the EU originally established a firm diplomatic relation in 1975. The EU heavily supported Fiji after Cyclone Winston in February 2016 with the restoration.

Fijian government believes that education is the pathway to prosperity for any country and hopes to build a knowledge-based society that will lead the country to be competitive in the world market.

Therefore, the government has provided educational opportunities for Fijian youths to develop their future. The government also ensures that every child in Fiji goes to school and promotes many programs within government policies and the Ministry of Education.

However, recently a Fiji Minister has brought the issue of discrimination against women educators to attention. Rosy Akbar, Fijian Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, argues that there is still a fear of letting women move forward in the education sector of Fiji. She argues that there are still attitudes against promotions, where many would prefer to have male principals than female principals.

Fiji strives to become a knowledge-based society where people will have knowledge of all factors of production and aspects of life in the society. In order to achieve the goal, the Prime Minister of Fiji strongly believes that the future will be determined by how they nurture and educate the children now.

They argue that the people of Fiji are given access to all forms of education based on fairness, equality and quality. Although there still exists deep-rooted conservative ideas among few, Fiji is gradually changing its education system to improve the quality of lives of its people in the future and to grow competitively in a global world.

Gulyn Kim

Photo: Flickr