Calls for New Caledonia’s nickel profits to be shared – Radio Australia (October 18, 2012)

But the benefits aren’t reaching many New Caledonians; in particular, young indigenous Kanaks, among whom unemployment is 38 per cent.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Professor Catherine Ris, University of New Caledonia

RIS: New Caledonia is a quite rich country, especially compared to other countries in the Pacific Islands, but it’s a very unequal country. Income distribution, experience, [there are] big, huge disparities. Even people, even different ethnic groups and also between areas even, if you are living in the south of New Caledonia you are not living in the same conditions than if you are living in the north, or in the islands province.

And one of the reasons for that is the school achievement already defers according to ethnicity. School achievement, if we split the population between Kanaks – that’s the indigenous people of New Caledonia – and non-Kanak people, we see for example that only three per cent of Kanak people graduate from higher education, compared to 23 per cent from non-Kanak people. And this disparity in school achievement also implies of course disparities in access to employment, labour market outcomes and to income distribution.

COUTTS: And part of that will be migration, I suppose. A better-educated Kanak or person from one of the ethnicities won’t stay in the local communities, they move on, and that’s why they improve their standards.

RIS: Eh, yeah. It really depends. You often see some well-qualified Kanak people that are working in the city during the week and go back to the village during the weekend, and they still live in their community and are very active in that. You also have some young Kanak people who go to school but they fail, so they stop school with no qualifications and they don’t really have a village where they can go and so they stay in the city, and that involves very high unemployment for young, unqualified Kanak people in the city.

COUTTS: But it’s a significant skew. The unemployment rate among young Kanaks is four times greater. That’s a significant skew. Why is it so large?

RIS: There are many reasons for that. The first one is, as I said, the level of qualifications and that is much higher for non-Kanak people than for Kanak people. There are also some other reasons. There’s a social network. Non-Kanak people benefit from better social networking to find a job and to find a good job. One other reason can be information for the job, when you are living far away from the city or from the economic activity you have no information of jobs available so you cannot apply for them.

Another reason is also that there are very few Kanak people in managerial or higher positions in the labour market so there is no really representation for young Kanak people to say I can do that, I can reach this position. So that’s really encourage active action, affirmative action to promote young Kanak people that will be a model for the rest of the community. And of course one reason is also discrimination against Kanak people, because most, I would say something like 85 per cent of employers in New Caledonia are non-Kanak, so it’s been shown in some sociological studies that there is also discrimination in employing Kanak people.

For an eight minute interview, and the rest of this transcript please go to the Radio Australia website:

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