One of the most oft quoted traditional Maori proverbs goes, “He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!” This simple, universally relevant and permanently valid home truth translates as, “What is the most important thing in the world? It is people! It is people! It is people!” There is nothing in the world as powerful as the collective power of the people. Civilisations have been built, empires expanded, new frontiers conquered and new knowledge has been acquired because of people power. Leaders ancient and modern have known this fact and those who have used it wisely and appropriately have created history – not just in the military and in politics but also in every human endeavour.
How gainfully its people are employed has a great bearing on the wellbeing of any society. Rates of gainful employment are critical for the economies of any country, which is why high rates of unemployment are such a worry to governments anywhere in the world. The Global Financial Crisis has sent unemployment rates soaring to as much as 30 to 40 per cent in some European countries like Spain and Portugal – an unprecedented level in peacetime. In the fast growing economies of Asia, unemployment has been comparatively lower.
But with world trade becoming increasingly interconnected and the economies of countries becoming intertwined with one another because of the forces of globalisation, what happens in one part of the world can quite easily and quickly begin to affect other parts of the world. So no country can ever rest easy on what seem like lower employment levels. They must continually strive hard to increase investment to create avenues of work and keep people employed. This is especially true of countries that have young populations like those in the Pacific Islands region.
More than half of the population of the collective Pacific Islands comprises young people below the age of 24, which is in stark contrast with much of the western world, where most of the population is ageing with fewer young people. While this is an asset for Pacific Island nations, it can be only so if these people are gainfully employed. If European unemployment figures have shocked the world, the reality in some Pacific Island countries is far worse. Some countries in the region have as much as 58 per cent of its work-capable population unemployed. It is probably masked only because many of these countries rely on a strong subsistence economy, unlike European nations.
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