8 Dec 2005

Fiji warned about soaring levels of urban poverty as sugar and garment industries falter

7:27 pm on 8 December 2005

Two academics from the University of the South Pacific are predicting soaring levels of urban poverty in Fiji unless a new approach is taken to job creation.

The head of the School of Economics, Dr Biman Prasad, and Economics lecturer, Sunil Kumar, say eroding investor confidence, and the declining sugar, garment and service sectors could lead to a serious unemployment and poverty situation.

They say while the state of poverty in Fiji is already at worrying levels, the decline of the key sugar and garment industries is a serious cause for concern.

The two lecturers say there is a need for a skills based approach to creating work where people with poor education can still find productive employment and receive appropriate training.

Currently the sugar industry provides around 25 percent of Fiji's total workforce, but the industry is due to decline significantly within two years with cuts to preferential access to the European Union.

There have already been major cutbacks in the garment industry, with more expected as market access disappears.