Social Policies in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu

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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.


Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are two small states that have struggled to develop successful social policies since gaining independence. This final study in the series traces the history of social development in both countries, examining closely the factors that have hindered progress: the colonial legacy, poor economic development, high population growth, political instability, the lack of social cohesion, mismanagement of resources and natural disasters. The authors argue that for progress to continue both countries need to move away from a reliance on their traditional social structures and focus on political stability and economic growth.




The Republic of Vanuatu is an archipelago of some 80 islands roughly 2,300 km east of Australia. Prior to independence in 1980 it was colonised by France and Great Britain and administered as a condominium. It has a population of some 225,000, the majority of whom are Melanesians, and about 74 languages are spoken throughout the archipelago. The majority of the population resides in the rural areas and is mostly engaged in subsistence agriculture. Commercially, cattle, coffee, cocoa and copra are produced for the export market, which forms the mainstay of the economy, but in more recent years tourism has made great inroads as a major contributor to the country’s GDP.


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