Rural-to-urban migration has characterised internal migration in Fiji in recent decades with the country’s population shifting from 63 per cent rural in the mid-1970s to almost 56 per cent urban just 40 years later, states a new report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
This has led to increasing numbers of informal settlements and urban poverty, the report stated.
The report “Migration in the Republic of Fiji: A Country Profile 2020” is the first report of its kind on migration in Fiji and was prepared with the assistance of the Fiji Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Immigration.
“Accelerating migration from rural to urban areas has contributed to a reduction in national level poverty and inequality, in part through the redistribution of jobs from agriculture to the less volatile service sector and the circulation of goods and money among households split between rural and urban areas,” stated the report.
“This migration has increased urban poverty and inequality, as evidenced by the expansion of squatter settlements.
“The 2017 census estimated as many as one quarter (24 per cent) of Fiji’s urban population was living in informal housing (120,494 people).
“This included 28,000 people in Suva and another 18,400 in neighbouring Nasinu.
“Up to 19,000 people were estimated to live in informal housing in Lautoka, and 18,700 in Nadi.”
More than a third of the poor now live in the Central Division, where Suva is located, with cases of extreme poverty (World Bank, 2017).
The population growth rate of greater Suva is double the national rate, and urban infrastructure is unable to keep pace.
The IOM report stated the processes of internal migration and urbanisation had led to more ethnically mixed communities, and an increasing number of people living on low wages.