The absence of tourists on the Pacific islands has plunged the local population into deepening poverty, according to a new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Thousands of jobs in micronations such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga are dependent on visitor numbers, which have fallen to zero amid the coronacrisis.
The collapse of global tourism due to the coronavirus epidemic threatens tp plunge masses of people into poverty, especially in small island states across the Pacific.
In its recently-released report, ILO follows a half-yearly forecast by the International Monetary Fund, which slashed global growth projections and predicted a slump unparalleled since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
According to ILO, half the global workforce—1.6 billion people—is in “immediate danger” of having their livelihoods smashed by the coronacrisis.
Of the total global working population of 3.3 billion, about 2 billion work in the “informal economy,” often on short-term contracts, freelance or self-employment, and have already suffered a 60 percent collapse in their wages in the first month of the crisis.
The small Pacific economies rely only on the touristic sector, so, thousands of jobs have been lost, with resorts and hotels, and even some airports, closing. Fiji, Palau, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga and the Cook Islands are all heavily dependent on travellers.
The ANZ Bank estimates Fiji, where tourism directly employs 150,000 people, will lose about a quarter of all jobs in the country, while Vanuatu will suffer the loss of 40 percent of jobs.
In the Cook Islands, tourism makes up 70 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a three-month interruption in travel and trade will mean the Pacific economies contract this year, with Tonga forecast for zero growth.
Taking into account that more than three in four tourism jobs are informal in these countries, thousands of families became just beggars. ILO director-general Guy Rider noted that the economic and social effects of the pandemic discriminate above all “against those who are at the bottom end of the world of work, those who don’t have protection, those who don’t have resources and the basics of what we would call the essentials of a normal life.”
Many governments in the Pacific used lockdown for creeping authoritarianism
According to New Zealand journalist David Robie, many governments in the Pacific, as well as elsewhere, are imposing tough controls under cover of fighting the coronavirus pandemic to strengthen “creeping authoritarianism.” The moves are no doubt in preparation for growing social unrest.
Concerns have also been raised about Vanuatu, where the government declared it illegal for media outlets to publish reports on coronavirus without government approval, citing the need to prevent the spread of “misinformation” about the disease.