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
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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