Exploring Multidimensional Poverty in Fiji: Findings from a Study Using the Individual Deprivation Measure

Author/s: Kylie Fisk & Joanne Crawford (International Women’s Development Agency)

Currently, poverty data in Fiji is derived from household income and expenditure data, collected via periodic Household Income and Expenditure Surveys (HIES). Given gender inequality within households can be significant, assessing individual poverty by using household data and then assuming all household members have the same access to resources and opportunities is problematic. Household-level measurement also means accurate disaggregation of data is impossible. This makes the work of policy makers and advocates harder, masking differences rather than revealing them so they can be addressed. Individual-level measurement is essential to fully understand poverty and inequality, and the relationship between gender and poverty.

In September 2015, 193 countries agreed to the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, committing to ‘leave no one behind’ in achieving the Goals by 2030. Realising this commitment requires data about individuals, in order to see how factors such as sex, age, disability, geography and more effect outcomes, so barriers and gaps can be identified and addressed.

The Individual Deprivation Measure (IDM) is a new, gender-sensitive and multidimensional measure of poverty. The measure assesses deprivation at the individual level, in relation to 15 key dimensions of life, making it possible to see who is poor, in what way and to what extent. It was developed through a four-year (2009-2013), three-phase multidisciplinary international research collaboration involving thousands of participants across 18 sites in six countries: Angola, Fiji, Indonesia, Malawi, Mozambique and the Philippines. The research was led by the Australian National University, in partnership with the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) and the Philippine Health and Social Science Association, University of Colorado at Boulder, and Oxfam Great Britain (Southern Africa), with additional support from Oxfam America and Oslo University. It was funded by the Australian Research Council and partner organisations (LP 0989385).

For any new measure to gain traction, it needs to be tested and learning documented to inform refinement and subsequent use. This requires initial users that are willing to take informed risks and recognise that potential can only be realised by taking a first step.

In 2014, the Australian Government funded the first IDM study beyond the initial proof of concept trial in the Philippines, to explore what additional insights into deprivation in Fiji could be gained by individual-level, gender-sensitive poverty measurement. This work was undertaken by the IWDA, working with the Fiji Bureau of Statistics (FBoS).

In 2016, the Australian Government made a further investment in the IDM as part of a wider focus on closing the gender data gap, supporting a four-year program to ready the IDM for global use by 2020. The IDM Fiji study has ensured that the IDM Global program, implemented in partnership with the Australian National University (ANU) and IWDA, is informed by circumstances in the Pacific.


The IDM Fiji study and its limitations

The Fiji Bureau of Statistics (FBoS) designed the study sample in consultation with IWDA and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Suva (DFAT Suva). FBoS conducted the enumerator training in collaboration with IWDA, piloted the survey, and implemented the study design, collecting and cleaning the data and facilitating a reflection session with enumerators on conclusion of fieldwork. Preparatory work and implementation of the survey was undertaken between February and September 2015. Given capacity constraints, FBoS determined to limit its engagement in the study to the above contribution, and data was analysed by IWDA. Participants at a two-day stakeholder workshop in Suva in February 2016 reviewed the initial data analysis, and urged a focus on the IDM’s ability to reveal how deprivation varies – within households, by sex, across social groups and settlement type, and by Tikina. Stakeholders considered that the process of aggregating dimension data into an overall IDM score hid the differences that were of most interest and policy relevance. This report reflects this guidance.

Once Australian Government funding for the IDM Global program was confirmed (May 2016), peer review of the initial scaling, weighting and aggregation of data used in the proof of concept trial in the Philippines and the Fiji data analysis revealed some reliability issues. For this reason, overall IDM scores are not reported here. Further specialist work is being undertaken on the approach to scoring, weighting and aggregation as part of the IDM Global program. When the approach to aggregation is finalised we will calculate and report overall IDM scores for Fiji. This will include analysis of overall results by factors including sex, age, settlement type, Tikina, sociocultural background, disability and their intersections where possible. This work will be undertaken as part of the IDM Global program. Arrangements for publication and communication of this subsequent work will be discussed with key stakeholders including consideration of how best to communicate research findings more widely, including to communities in enumeration areas surveyed for the IDM Fiji study.

  • Other Authors: Fiji Bureau of Statistics
  • Organisation commissioning the research: DFAT
  • Date Published: July 28, 2017
  • Search keywords: poverty, gender discrimination, statistics, IDM,