24 Mar 2010

Demographic change in Fiji will dilute ethnicity focus

3:09 pm on 24 March 2010

An economics professor at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Wadan Narsey, says in less than 20 years ethnicity will be a non-issue in Fiji because demographic changes are happening more rapidly than first thought.

Dr Narsey says, based on projections from the 2007 census, the Indo-Fijian population will be 27 percent of the population by 2027, down from nearly half in 1987 when the first of Fiji's four coups occurred.

Removing race as a political issue is a stated aim of the interim regime, but Dr Narsey says the demographic changes will make this irrelevant.

He says ethnicity will not be a concern by 2027 while he also forecasts major changes in business and schooling.

"Primary schools, the Indo-Fijians will perhaps be only about 18 or 19 percent of the total primary population. In Fiji, the education system has usually been managed by ethnically oriented organisations, so that not too long ago half of all the primary school places in Fiji were at Indo-Fijian schools. By 2027 the majority of the children in all these Indo-Fijian schools will be indigenous Fijian."

Dr Narsey says the decline is due to steady migration and a dramatic fall in the fertility rate.