Trade and Industry

Trade and Poverty in Mauritius: Impact of EU Sugar Reforms on the Livelihood of Sugar Cane Workers

  • Year: 2009
  • Organisation: Trade and Pro-Poor Growth Thematic Working Group; TIPS, BIDPA
  • Publication Author(s): Rojid Sawkut;Tandrayen Verena;Seetanah Boopen;Sunnassee Vinesh
  • Countries and Regions: Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), European Union (EU)
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With the EU sugar reforms, the overall economic weight of the sugar sector has fallen. The sugar sector's contribution to GDP is now comparatively small, around 1.9% of GDP in 2008. In this context, the Mauritian government and the private sector defined the Multi-Annual Adaptation Strategy (MAAS) to restructure and establish a more competitive sugar sector. Among the different policies of the MAAS, one measure is the implementation of the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) which is in line with the right sizing of the labour force and a reduction in the labour costs in the sugar industry. The aim of this study is to assess the impact of the EU sugar reforms on the livelihood of the VRS beneficiaries. Firstly, we analyse their living conditions before and after the reform. We, then, adopt a gender assessment evaluation of the VRS to evaluate its differential impact on men and women. Third, we investigate as to how the land and compensation they benefited have been used.

Lastly, we focus on the training aspect of the scheme. We analyse the different training programmes and see their contribution in improving the living standards of the beneficiaries. In line with the above, focus group discussions and a survey were undertaken. Focus group discussions were conducted on VRS beneficiaries in the North and South of the island. Our survey considers 175 VRS beneficiaries from five sugar estates. We observe that a high percentage of the beneficiaries move to a lower income bracket with their expenditure exceeding their present income level. Further both men and women are affected negatively under the scheme but the impact appears to be more significant for women. Further, most of the VRS II beneficiaries have not yet been trained. For those who have undergone training, they have not yet obtained a new job or applied their knowledge to set up their own business.