Zero unemployment sounds like the dream for any country, but for Niue in the Pacific, it's proving as much as curse as a blessing

July 7, 2017

Alofi – Alofi is the capital of the Pacific Ocean island nation of Niue, which is located within the Realm of New Zealand.

From a population of more than 5,000 in the 1960s, just 1,700 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),  – (relatively)  booming with two flights a week now operating.
 
 “A lot of our businesses are experiencing times when they can actually expand,” said Catherine Papani of the Niue Chamber of Commerce.
 
Many Niueans work multiple jobs, but there's still aren’t enough people to fill the jobs being created. Some are worried that 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,” Papani said.
 
Both 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,” Papani said.
 
Niue Premier Toke Talagi supports importing labor. “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.’”
 
Niue needs workers largely in the private sector which employs 20 percent of workers. Government accounts for the other 80 percent of employees.
 
The lifestyle in Niue is exactly what one would imagine about living on a secluded island.


The population lives off the land and the sea, where fisherman 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, where there is no traffic, the air is fresh, the seas are clear and business opportunities abound. 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.

 

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


“Finding staff to work in our businesses is really hard. I guess you have to work extra hard being in the private sector,” Rex Blumsky said.
 
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.

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