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Survey underscores huge income gap between Malé and atolls

Households in the capital earn twice as much a month compared to the atolls. 



The average household income in the Maldives capital is double what it is in the atolls, according to the third nationwide Household Income and Expenditure Survey published Wednesday.

Households in Malé earn MVR37,035 (US$2,400) a month compared to MVR18,358 (US$1,190) in the atolls.

The average household size is 5.3 people, of which 2.5 people are income earners, and the per capita monthly income in the Maldives is MVR4,944.

The per capita income in Malé is MVR6,984 and in the atolls it is MVR3,421, reflecting the disparity between the capital and other islands.

It was highest in the central Faafu atoll and lowest in the north-central Raa atoll.

The average monthly income per earner is also two times higher in Malé at MVR13,763 compared to MVR7,644 in the atolls.

The unsurprising results echo the country’s second Human Development Index report, which found that the average income for a person living in Malé – equivalent to US$4251.90 – was one and a half times that of a person living in the atolls.

Nearly 40 percent of the country’s 374,467-strong population resides in the congested capital city.

Rapid migration to the capital was identified as a cause of the rising inequality, while the rich-poor divide was being exacerbated by a tourism industry that “operates as a powerful oligarchy and has given rise to an elite class that owns much of the country’s wealth.”

The HIES was conducted by the finance ministry’s National Bureau of Statistics throughout 2016.

It is conducted every five years to identify income distribution and spending patterns, compile poverty indicators, update the consumer price index, and analyse the labour market.

In Malé, households spend MVR34,341 a month. The figure is MVR18,498 in the atolls.

Housing, electricity and water represent 31 percent of expenditure for Malé households. Rent accounted for 23 percent.

According to the HIES, the unemployment rate in the Maldives is 6.1 percent.

The labour force participation was found to be 58 percent, with 75 percent of men and 42 percent of women economically active.

Of the employed population, 47 percent reside in Malé.

The survey identified a significant gender wage gap, with men earning on average MVR11,977 a month while women earn MVR7,510.

But women spend six hours a day on chores and childcare compared to three hours for men.

The population outside the labour force was 42 percent or one in four Maldivians aged 15 and higher. The vast majority were women at 72 percent.