Social Policies in Samoa

image of Social Policies in Samoa

The country case studies and thematic papers in this series examine social policy issues facing small states and the implications for economic development. They show how, despite their inherent vulnerability, some small states have been successful in improving their social indicators because of the complementary social and economic policies they have implemented.


Samoa is widely known as a role model in the Pacific region for its economic and social achievements since gaining independence in 1962. This indepth study traces the history of government policy and examines the fundamentals underpinning the country’s social development progress: the welfare state; social cohesion; participative democracy and the power of jurisdiction. It also examines how the fa’a Samoa, the Samoan culture, and securing external assistance enabled the country to build resilience in the face of a number of crises in the 1990s – including two cyclones and a taro blight.



Postindependence Progress

Samoa was the first country in the region to gain independence, largely as a result of New Zealand’s commitment to independence and political stability. However, immediately after independence, the Samoan Government realised it faced a gigantic task. Its main concern was the rapid growth in population, with an average growth rate for the five-year period 1961–1966 of 3.8 per cent (Department of Economic Development, 1970). This was higher than in the ten-year period 1945–1956, when the growth rate was 1–2 per cent. This big increase in population placed enormous pressure on the country’s economy and created huge social welfare needs.


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