How tough is it to live in paradise?

When looking through vacation advertisement, you must have read that famous line from Mark Twain to describe Mauritius.

“You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.” by Mark Twain, from “Following the equator” 1897

Belle-Mare-plageThe country is heaven at least for those that are comfortably well-off. For most of the inhabitants life can be a struggle to make ends meet. Low wages and rising prices of necessities is exasperating workers’ lives. The recent government budget announced only 3.2% rise for low wage earners which in no way meets the loss due to the cost of living rise. Indeed when you are only getting between Rs. 3,000-6,000 p/month, (Euro 74-148 – USD 98-195), you are continuously battling to make ends meet. Unskilled labour here has a terrible time to find jobs and when employed it usually means without any kind of social security.

Far from the beautiful beaches and luxurious hotels and golf courses there is a people sometimes living with a heavy burden. Families not always able to have three square meals a day. Parents going without so that they can pay expenses for their young one’s education. Having said that, the government has introduced schemes to help families pay higher education fees and student public transport is free.


Nevertheless, in the country, there are still pockets of extreme poverty. Just recently a local radio station made a broadcast plea to come to the aid of a woman and her children having to sleep on the street in cardboard boxes. There are still areas where people live in shanty towns. These are living quarters made of tin shacks and wood which house whole families in a couple of rooms. Usually these have no running water and few have electricity. While the government has introduced housing schemes and built low-cost housing the program to end poverty still has a long way to go.

Add to these social problems the despair of many and you have suicides, alcoholism, drug addiction, increase in domestic violence, child abuse, just to name of few. The worse cases being recorded are violence perpetrated against children resulting in homicides. The government ministry for child protection is being overhauled to make it more efficient in its operation. However, the resources are clearly not enough to meet the present realities.

The gap between rich and poor is growing. The country is faced with a two-speed development process. The poor are left way behind and unable to catch-up to modern society without a boost from the welfare state. This was clear when the government started promoting IT awareness (information technology) and computers for the home. A large part of the population did not have the funds to buy PCs or laptops and others did not have electricity in their home so obviously this was not a priority for them. It is on these occasions that you say to yourself, hey, hang on a minute, these people don’t have the basics and you want them to join the 21st century!

The government eradication of poverty program is still in its infancy and it will take a joint effort with the NGO sector to get to grips with the problem. The people living in poverty need to be accompanied during their transition process. Many are illiterate, therefore unable to formally apply for help or are not aware of the mechanism for social assistance. In other words, if they are not accompanied, housed, assisted and given job training there will not be any progress.

Yes, it is tough for some living in paradise.

Supplement to this blog article dated 21 January 2011. Information from MFPWA (Mauritius Family Planning and Welfare Association) in an interview given to

What are the main programmes targeting the poor?

The MFPWA has always worked for the vulnerable people in disadvantaged areas. We have our own way to fight poverty. The trends in Mauritius are that the birth rate is high among the poor rather than other classes. There are so many reasons.

Some people who do not work or do not have a fixed job take sex and conceiving babies as a sport. It is a pity to see women very ignorant, with multiple partners, vulnerable and easily exploited due to lack of education.

We wish to eradicate poverty at root level. Each child should get a fair chance to succeed in life. We work for the poor children to be successful adults and not poor adults. We provide services in terms of training, counselling and provision of contraceptives.

We work with the Ministry of Social Integration and Economic Empowerment to eradicate poverty by limiting the number of births in families where there is already a high rate of birth.

The stark reality is that 8% of households here live in poverty, which represents some 106,000 people in a country like Mauritius. There are currently 26,400 poor households across the island.

There are some 7,000 families across the island living on less than Rs4,000 a month and according to the Trust Fund for the Social Integration of Vulnerable Groups, the living standards of the poorest in our society are cause for growing concern.

Seventy-five percent more women are unemployed than men. Most of them are single-parent women. The challenge is to find suitable jobs for them; this is one of the major problems. According to the statistics from Social Security, 6,000 single women parents are registered annually.

Apart from their jobs, we must find a nursery to take care of their children while the mothers are working. In Mauritius there are 23,000 women who are unemployed. We have to deal with this issue as soon as possible so we have to provide a service that will enable them to go out to work.

0 thoughts on “How tough is it to live in paradise?”

  1. Healthcare and education are totally free in this country.

    This means people SHOULD know how to read, write, be educated and also be healthy enough to go to work. They have been given the basics in life FOR FREE.

    They have 2 arms, 2 legs and a brain like everyone else. Do something with that and don’t rely on handouts or people feeling sorry.

    If they failed to learn at school, if they failed to be sufficiently educated to know that having sex may lead to having children, then they should take all the blame and the consequences.

    Why provide free nursery for them? Can’t one woman with kids among them look after the other women’s kids? Help each other!

    Why should hard workers who have just 1 or 2 kids or none at all help these people? They already received help in the form of free education and healthcare.

    There are winners and losers in life but make the best of what you have been given.

    1. I agree with you on the essential need for education. I know of some people who did not receive an education and consequently do not know how to read or write. Through no fault of their own they were used as basic workers by their parents who were themselves uneducated. These days you have the other social problem that children are abandoned by the fathers and mothers. Usually because of family unit breakdown in separations and also the fact that alcoholism and/or drugs have destroyed the family. There is an increase in under-age pregnancies basically due to ignorance but also because of criminal acts. Some women have been left alone with very young children and are in desperate situations. The idea of free nursery for these women is to free them so that they can go to work. The social housing contracts stipulate clauses to make sure that children go to school and that the adult regularly pays back the loan/rent but it seems that even this breaks down due to neglect. I also see laziness and taking advantage of the welfare state creeping in. There are people abusing the system for their own gains. A stricter case by case social supervisory role is required but the resources are lacking.

      1. Hi guys,
        Going back to Mike’s replies of 16/10/2010 and his last, there is a tedency in the UK at least by Government to starting to crack-down hard on those who simply get benefits and free hand-outs etc. and then immediately spend those benefits on drink and drugs etc. But it seems to me that it takes far too long in reality for any really constructive action to curb this abuse of the system.

        Here we are not allowed to smoke tobacco related products in many places (eventually even the home – has been proposed), but I feel that this is missing the point, as up to 90% of crime is drink and drugs related, not to mention the effects that those two alone are having on the NHS health services etc. To the best of my knowledge, tobacco was never a cause for such high crime-rates (but is a good tax earner for this government), yet once again the point has been missed about what are the real problems with those who abuse the system and subsequently use the free system to “clean up their own mess.”

        Alcohol in moderation (I mean very small amounts compared to what some believe moderation really means), is or should be just another way of enjoying a social life, but unfortunately – once one or two jars are downed the neck, all sense of moderation usually goes out the window (or down the drain)… This,
        and I dare say many other governments, do not want to loose the all-important income generated by alcohol sales, so the vicious-circle will continue until long after I’m in another world…

        Were do we go from here ? Well unless there is sufficient and immediate action to permanently take-out those who manufacture/export/import and supply the illegal substances, as well as force those who believe that alcohol is the only way to enjoy ones activities, then I see little change in the near and far future for our communities – especially in the UK.

        I for one, am quite happy to enjoy Coke on a regular basis, but Pepsi and other soft drinks and cordials do exactly the same for me as alcohol or drugs. It’s more a ‘state of mind’ that I enjoy other peoples company and my own (when and where-ever) and certainly don’t require the use of mind-bending techniques to take-over my life…

        The savings i make allow me to enjoy the various activities that I get up to (including G.A.flying), so even though I’m retired now, I hope to benefit from those savings for a few more years to come…

  2. I agree with you on the aspect of the few lazy people and those into drugs. For the lazy ones there are ways the government could setup procedures to force them to go for training and/or employment. There are schemes that you can implement to motivate people, giving free services or handouts is certainly not the answer. As for the drug problem, which I did not go into, I do not view it as “un fléau” (a bane or curse on society) but rather as a self-inflicted injury. I believe the authorities are too lenient and inclined to view the users as victims. Maybe this is a hot subject for future discussion.

  3. Oh. That’s a very nice article to show the other facet of our country, the one which is not discussed publicly.

    There are so many problems that we try to evade from, and more than that, we just try to ignore them. Those families try to do everything in their power to lead their lifes. But sometimes, you come across really lazy ones, for whom getting into drugs was something of their own choice. These category of people do not do any effort in trying to escape their poverty.
    Very recently, I heard a debate where a group of people were demanding free water/electricity for the poorest families. I believe that this request is totally unfair. Instead, there should be ways to encourage them to be more productive in life.

    And that’s my 2 cents to your article 😉
    Keep it up Mike!

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