Wealth and poverty
Careful management of the trust fund based on phosphate mining (which ceased in 1979) has helped cushion the impact of the loss of this major source of income. Kiribati is now heavily dependent on income from fishing licences and remittances from seamen on merchant ships abroad, as well as aid from the international community.
Education and work
Schooling is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 14. Most children receive a primary education, but post-primary facilities are limited. Only about 34% of students attend secondary school (girls: 38% and boys: 32%). A branch of the University of the South Pacific (based in Fiji) is located on South Tarawa, and some students also study in New Zealand and Australia.
Most islanders make a living by fishing, growing their own food, and raising small livestock. In 2000, 2.7% of those in the workforce were employed in agriculture, 32% in industry and 65.3% in services.
Industries and products
Kiribati has few natural resources. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted at the time of independence from the UK in 1979. Copra (the dried ‘meat’ of the coconut which can be used to make oil) and fish now represent the bulk of production, industry and exports.
Agricultural products include copra, taro, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, and vegetables. Industries include fishing and handicrafts.
Kiribati’s exports include copra, coconuts, seaweed and fish. Imports include foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, and fuel. In 2009 the major import partners were Australia (29.4%), Fiji (23.8%) and France (6.8%).