5 Sep 2005

Marshall Islands exodus expected to continue to the U.S

4:14 pm on 5 September 2005

The exodus of people from the Marshall Islands to the United States is expected to continue in the forseeable future.

The country's director of planning, Carl Hacker, says approximately one in every five Marshallese now lives in the U.S. under the visa free access for work and study that people are granted.

He says between 1990 and last year, more than 13,000 people left the Marshall Islands than arrived or returned.

Mr Hacker says there were big spikes of departures in 1996 when government jobs were lost due to public sector reforms, and in 2000 when the Compact of Free Association with the U.S. was re-negotiated.

He says there are still reasons why people consider leaving the Marshall Islands.

"The economy is having a hard time, a very difficult time, providing enough jobs for everybody. We have about 1200 kids a year that are graduating from high schools and coming into the labour market, and we just can't really absorb all those people. And, population pressures in the urban centres. There's just some people that are finding it more attractive to go to the states."

Mr Hacker says with unemployment at around 30 percent, the government is not too concerned at the number of departures.