Not enough peo­ple

A PA­CIFIC IS­LAND’S ZERO UNEM­PLOY­MENT IS CAUS­ING MANY HEADACHES

Shepparton News - - NATIONAL AND WORLD NEWS -

NIUE: Zero unem­ploy­ment sounds like the dream for any coun­try, but for Niue in the Pa­cific it is prov­ing as much a curse as a bless­ing.

From a pop­u­la­tion of more than 5000 in the 1960s, just 1700 peo­ple now call the co­ral atoll home.

The lack of unem­ploy­ment is pos­ing a prob­lem if the na­tion is to grow and re­main vi­able as a coun­try.

Tourism on the is­land, which asks vis­i­tors upon de­par­ture how they first heard of the coun­try (news­pa­per, tele­vi­sion or word of mouth), is boom­ing with two flights a week now op­er­at­ing.

‘‘A lot of our busi­nesses are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing times when they can ac­tu­ally ex­pand,’’ Cather­ine Pa­pani from the lo­cal Cham­ber of Com­merce said.

Many Ni­ueans work mul­ti­ple jobs but there are still not enough peo­ple to fill the jobs be­ing cre­ated.

There is con­cern the coun­try’s econ­omy, which re­lies on mil­lions in for­eign aid, could stag­nate.

‘‘There’s no unem­ploy­ment but that’s not to say that we’ve reached a stage where we don’t need more em­ploy­ment com­ing in,’’ Ms Pa­pani said.

New Zealand and Aus­tralia have found suc­cess with sea­sonal work­ers, some­thing Niue is con­sid­er­ing.

‘‘If we had a struc­ture set up or we could tap into a struc­ture like that al­ready set up then that would ac­tu­ally work well for us,’’ Ms Pa­pani said.

Premier Toke Talagi sup­ported im­port­ing labour.

‘‘We’ll bring them in, we’ll ac­com­mo­date them,’’ he said.

‘‘I met the Cham­ber of Com­merce and said to them, you tell us what you want, we’ll go out there and we’ll bring peo­ple.’’

It is skilled and un­skilled work­ers the is­land needs, largely in the pri­vate sec­tor which em­ploys 20 per cent of work­ers, while gov­ern­ment snaps up the other 80 per cent.

The life­style in Niue is ex­actly what one would imag­ine liv­ing on a se­cluded is­land is like.

The pop­u­la­tion lives off the land and the sea, where fish­er­men can be spot­ted reel­ing in sword­fish and co­conut crabs take the bait.

That life­style is draw­ing back a gen­er­a­tion of Ni­ueans, grow­ing the pop­u­la­tion for the first time in decades.

Pauline Rex Blum­sky, the grand­daugh­ter of Niue’s first premier, is one of those, re­turn­ing home af­ter nine years in the Mid­dle East.

‘‘I was born and raised here and lived most of my life here . . . there’s no place like home,’’ she said.

Niue is her lit­tle par­adise — no traf­fic, fresh air, clear seas and busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties.

She helps run her fam­ily’s restau­rant, cafe and re­tail busi­nesses, while her hus­band Mark Blum­sky, New Zealand’s for­mer High Com­mis­sioner to Niue, now runs his own veg­etable and herb farm.

They, like oth­ers, are also strug­gling and have turned to coun­tries like Tu­valu to get work­ers.

In the end the Ni­ueans are a re­laxed bunch.

All they want is to grow the econ­omy enough to re­duce their re­liance on for­eign aid, a win they say is for every­one.

AAP Im­age/Xavier La Canna

Pic­turesque: Niue is wit­ness­ing a prob­lem some coun­tries would love — it has a zero unem­ploy­ment rate.

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