Report points to hardship and poverty in ‘paradise’
“ Notably, poverty appears to be as high or higher in urban areas as it is in rural areas –particularly among young people. The Pacific Islands have witnessed a rapid rise in the proliferation of “urban villages” in recent years…” I.L.O. report
Samoa and other Pacific Island countries might be regarded as “paradise” according to tourism brochures but beneath the surface lies a disturbing truth, according to an International Labour Office (I.L.O.) report.
Although the region is among the largest aid recipients in the world, one fifth of the region’s population continue to struggle with hardship and poverty as people fail to meet their basic food needs.
This is according to the International Labour Office (I.L.O.) Country Office for Pacific Island Countries report released in June 2017.
Under the poverty head count for the Pacific, the report says 27 percent of the population in Samoa struggle to meet basic food needs.
A copy of the report obtained by the Samoa Observer indicates that “more than 20 per cent of people in the Pacific Islands live in hardship, meaning that they are unable to meet their basic needs, including food.”
“The percentage of people living at or below national poverty lines is high, ranging from 13 per cent in Vanuatu to 40 per cent of the total population in Papua New Guinea (see figure).
“However, poverty rates are lower when measured in terms of people’s ability to meet their basic needs. Using the World Bank’s consumption poverty line, poverty rates stand at 2.2 per cent and 26.5 per cent of the total population for Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, respectively (World Bank, 2014).”
The report further says the region is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters, which poses a continual disruptive threat to living conditions.
“Furthermore, a dependence on global commodity markets to meet basic needs and income leaves families vulnerable to price fluctuations.
“For example, a drop in agricultural prices would generally benefit the urban poor – but this would come at the expense of net food producers among the rural poor.
“In Papua New Guinea, micro simulation analysis suggests that a 10 per cent decline in food prices would reduce urban poverty by almost 2 per cent, but rural poverty by less than 1 per cent (World Bank, 2016b).
“Notably, poverty appears to be as high or higher in urban areas as it is in rural areas –particularly among young people (Curtain et al. 2011).
“The Pacific Islands have witnessed a rapid rise in the proliferation of “urban villages” in recent years, as poverty and climate change-induced migration push rural dwellers toward city areas that often lack basic social services (Jones, 2016).
“Residents of these peri-urban settlements often face low-quality housing and stigmatization while heavily relying on the informal economy for income.
“Half the population of Papua New Guinea’s capital, Port Moresby, live in these urban villages; throughout the Pacific, more than 1 million people call these settlements home.”
The I.L.O. report says this is a reminder that poverty is not simply an economic measure, but a multidimensional phenomenon that seeps into all aspects of life: health, education, segregation and integration.
“Health, for example, is inextricably linked to poverty. Non-communicable diseases are becoming a real burden in the Pacific, which is home to seven of the world’s ten most high-prevalence countries for diabetes.
“This burden has already impacted the region’s growth potential.
“The economic losses due to mortality related to non-communicable diseases could reach a regional average of 12 per cent of GDP by 2040.
“A lack of health services and social protection schemes in the PICs can push residents into a poverty trap.
“Government-led social insurance is minimal, while traditional social safety nets only go so far.
“Understanding the true scope of poverty – and enacting appropriate policy solutions –will require investments in producing accurate data.
“Governments should take steps to set up targeted cash transfer schemes. Comprehensive measures must be put in place to offer basic health, education and sanitation infrastructure in order to deal with the surge in urbanization and informal work in these environments.
“Finally, policy-makers must look ahead to anticipate and plan for risks that could worsen conditions for people living in poverty,” says the I.L.O. report.