From this IPS article, reporter Shailendra Singh focuses on the children who have bleak futures.
According to Fiji’s 2002/2003 Household Income and Expenditure Survey, an estimated 43 percent of the total population of 850,000 lives in poverty of varying degrees.
Observers believe that the situation of tens of thousands of poor families like Chand’s has become even more desperate since the global economic crisis struck in 2007. Such families are now forced to prematurely pull their children out of school and send them to work.
Fiji’s compulsory education age is 15, which is also the minimum legal age for work. The law also prohibits Fiji children below 18 from working during school hours. But just as in many developing countries with high levels of poverty and low levels of social welfare, child labour laws are either poorly enforced or ignored as strict implementation could lead to the affected family going without food.
Biman Prasad, an economics professor at the University of the South Pacific, said that despite having more than 95 percent of children in school, there are more children living in poverty and more of them engaged in child labour than before.
"The main reason why we see more students not being able to complete primary education is financial difficulties," said Prasad. "While we have made some economic progress, we are still far from achieving levels of economic growth that can effectively lead to the reduction in poverty."
More ominous for Fiji is the finding by a non-government organisation, Save the Children Fiji, of increased child prostitution. A 2009 survey of 87 adults and 104 children below the age of 18 in seven sites around Fiji uncovered evidence of more young people engaging in prostitution as a result of the economic hardships brought on by the crisis.
The results of the survey of sex workers commissioned by the International Labour Organisation have yet to be released , but a spokesperson for the international children’s charity said that many of the children interviewed had fallen into prostitution in the last two years as a result of economic hardships.