Not enough people
A PACIFIC ISLAND’S ZERO UNEMPLOYMENT IS CAUSING MANY HEADACHES
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.
Picturesque: Niue is witnessing a problem some countries would love — it has a zero unemployment rate.