In French Polynesia, where unemployment and underemployment are growing problems, the inequalities in wealth are sharp. At one end of the scale is the large ring of slums around Papeete, home to 20,000 dispossessed Polynesians; at the other end are the luxury holiday homes of French Polynesia's seasonal migrants, like actor Marlon Brando, owner of the island of Tetiaroa, just north of Tahiti. The 2,200 expatriate French administrators and advisors, who make up around 4 percent of the islands' population, earn 84 percent more than their metropolitan French counterparts, and are the country's economic elite. Such disparities are made worse by the division of haves and have-nots along racial lines, with French at the top, mixed races in business and minor government posts in the middle, and the indigenous Polynesians at the bottom. The result has been serious social tensions, which have also put a strain on the traditionally relaxed and egalitarian tenor of indigenous life. The public education system has not helped, although it has created a 98 percent literacy rate. With the curriculum entirely French, the indigenous failure rate is high, ranging
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|Note: Data are estimates.|
|SOURCE: Handbook of the Nations 17th,18th,19th and 20th editions for 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 data; CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online] for 2000 data.|
from 40 to 60 percent. This, combined with unemployment, is threatening to produce a Polynesian underclass.