Tonga

Applying the Consensual Approach in Tonga

The Kingdom of Tonga has developed a multidimensional poverty measure, which builds on the Consensual Approach.  Combining data on income and deprivation, the poor are seen as those who experience both low income and are also materially and socially deprived.  This measure is used to assess progress towards meeting its SDG target on multidimensional poverty (SDG1.2), in particular for child poverty (see Measuring progress in tackling child poverty below).

Income  is  measured  at  the  household  level  - reflecting  the  sharing  of resources among household members – and takes into account both monetary (e.g. wages) and non-monetary  sources  (e.g.  self-production).  The income poverty line is set at 944 adjusted Pa’anga per month for children and 970 Pa’anga per month for adults. 

Deprivation  is captured  through  an  index  of socially perceived necessities - items and activities that the majority of people in Tonga consider that  no-one  should  go  without.  The  index  contains  both  individual (with different items for adults and children to take into account the special needs of children) and  household  level indicators. The items were tested in a Consensual deprivation module in the 2015/16 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) to see if they were seen as essential. All items were seen as essential by a large majority as can be seen in the tables below.


What is essential in Tonga? Households
Household items % Yes: Essential
All prescribed medicine when someone sick 97%
Regular savings for emergencies 95%
Own means of transportation 95%
Repair electrical goods 94%
Replace worn-out furniture 92%


What is essential in Tonga ? Adults
Adults items % Yes: Essential
Two meals a day 98%
A good meal with meat or fish on Sundays and special occasions 98%
Two pairs of properly fitting shoes 97%
Small amount of money for self weekly 96%
Clothes for special occasions 96%
Presents once a year 96%
Money for hospital visits for family and friends 96%
Fruit and vegetables daily 96%
Replace worn-out clothes 95%
Access to safe public transport 95%
Get together monthly 94%


What is essential in Tonga? Children
Children - 0 to 15 % Yes: Essential
Properly fitting shoes 98%
Three meals a day 98%
Meat or fish daily 98%
Some new, not second-hand clothes 97%
School equiments (uniform, books, pen etc) 97%
A suitable place for homework 97%
Beds and bedding for every child 97%
Celebrations on special occasions 96%
Fruit and vegetables daily 96%
School trips and events that cost money 95%
Books suitable for their age 94%
Tutorial lessons once a week 93%
Leisure equipment (eg sports equipment or a bycycle) 93%
Source: Consensual deprivation module, Household Income and Expenditure Survey, Tonga, 2016

It is worth noting that most of the items in the child necessities list relate to key rights in the International Convention of the Rights of the Child. The right to quality education (article 28) requires not only access to education but also to the means necessary to make the most of educational opportunities, such as books and school materials. Article 27 grants children the right to have their basic needs met including food, clothing and a safe place to live. Article 24 grants access to medication when needed and sufficient quality food as both are related to the right to health.

Deprivation rates

The survey next identifies those households and individuals who go without these items because they cannot afford them. The adult deprivation rate can be seen in the table below. The child deprivation rate can be seen under Measuring Progress in tackling child poverty (below).

Adult deprivation rates, Tonga, 2016


Items seen as essential Percentage who can not afford item
Replace worn-out furniture 35%
Own means of transportation 32%
Repair electrical goods 29%
Regular savings for emergencies 28%
All prescribed medicine when someone sick 14%
Small amount of money for self weekly 14%
Money for hospital visits for family and friends 14%
Fruit and vegetables daily 14%
Access to safe public transport 13%
Get together monthly 13%
Replace worn-out clothes 12%
Presents once a year 11%
Two meals a day 5%
Clothes for special occasions 4%
Two pairs of properly fitting shoes 2%
Source: Consensual deprivation module, Household Income and Expenditure Survey, Tonga, 2016

The highest levels of deprivation are for household items, transportation and being able to cope in emergencies. With climate change bring an increased freqeunce and intensitiy of tropical cylones to the area, this ability to cope in emergencies is particularly important.  Furthermore, 14% of households cannot afford all prescribed medicines. This has potentially serious health imnplications, in particular in managing the outbreak of infectious diseases.

Overall poverty

The analysis fo this data then examines low income and deprivation, allowing for a more nuanced view of poverty than just income measures ( see 'Assessing progress towards the eradication of poverty in the Kingdom of Tonga', Viliami Fifita, Alba Sánchez, Héctor Catalán and Daivd Gordon, Statistics Department Tonga, 2018) 

 
On this basis, in Tonga, overall 27% of the population is in poverty. Child poverty rates are higher than adult poverty rates:
  • 23% of adults - almost one in four - are poor: they are deprived of three or more essentials and live in a low-income household. 
  • 33% of children – one in three- living in poverty: they are deprived of two or more essentials and live in a low-income household.
 
As a result of this work, the Tonga government has targeted support to this group.
 
A further 14% of adults and 16% of children are vulnerable to deprivation: they face material and/or  social deprivation but do not  have low income. These may be households who have recently experienced an increase in their income (e.g.  by  a  member  gaining  paid  employment)  after  a  period  in  poverty.  This  group  is  not currently poor but may benefit from support to cover their basic needs.
 
A further 25% of adults and 19% of children are in households on low incomes but are not currently facing deprivation. These households may be covering their needs through support from family and friends or may be able to draw on savings. This group is vulnerable to experiencing poverty in the future.
 

Measuring progress in tackling child poverty

The Tongan government first introduced this approach to measuring poverty in 2012. This means that trends in deprivation between 2012 and 2016 can be tracked. The table below shows changes in child deprivation, covering both the percentage of children living in households who cannot afford the household items seen as essential as well as the percentage the children lacking the essential child items. The table is sortable by column.

Child deprivation in Tonga, 2012 and 2016


Household and child items seen as essential % deprived 2012 % deprived 2016 change
Properly fitting shoes 12% 3% -9
Three meals a day 8% 8% 0
Meat or fish daily 8% 5% -3
Some new, not second-hand clothes 15% 11% -4
School equiments (uniform, books, pen etc) 6% 4% -2
A suitable place for homework 10% 9% -1
Beds and bedding for every child 11% 9% -2
Celebrations on special occasions 17% 13% -4
Fruit and vegetables daily 13%
School trips and events that cost money 11% 10% -1
Books suitable for their age 22%
Tutorial lessons once a week 22%
Leisure equipment (eg sports equipment or a bycycle) 24% 23% -1
All prescribed medicine when someone sick 24% 15% -9
Regular savings for emergencies 32% 29% -3
Own means of transportation 33% 33% 0
Repair electrical goods 43% 31% -12
Replace worn-out furniture 44% 36% -8
Source: 'Assessing progress towards the eradication of poverty in the Kingdom of Tonga', Statistics Department Tonga, 2018
The table shows some improvement in child deprivation during this period. For most of the necessities, the percentage going without has fallen. Fewer children are deprived of at least one item and, in addition, fewer children are deprived of multiple items. The percentage lacking five or more necessities dropped from 29% to 24%. 
Nevertheless, deprivation remains high and in some areas, most notable food, there has been little improvement. The percentage of children going without three meals a day remains at 8%, while 13% go without daily fruit a vegetables. Insufficient access to food has potential implications  for  children’s  health  and  development  as  well  as  for  their  educational attainment. A number of policy considerations stem from these findings including making free school meals available to all students in compulaosry education, regardless of their ability to pay. 
 
For further details see:
'Assessing progress towards the eradication of poverty in the Kingdom of Tonga', Statistics Department Tonga, 2018 (pdf below)
'Child Poverty in Tonga', Viliami Fifita, Shailen Nandy and David Gordon, University of Bristol, 2015 (pdf below)
 

Improving the deprivation index

To further improve the quality of index of deprivation and to ensure that it remains relevant to life in Tonga, the Tonga Statistics Department commissioned a series of focus groups examing in detail the attitudes of a wide range of groups.  A series of 19 focus groups were conducted by the University of the South Pacific. This research found that the main poverty-related issues affecting participants’ lives fell into four broad themes: money, social obligations, individual characteristics, and  resources. Under the theme of money, these sub themes emerged: income, cost of living, debt, and hardship. Social obligations had the  following  sub  themes:  community  and  family.  The  theme  of  individual  characteristics  related mainly to behaviours, while the theme of resources revealed the sub-themes of: education, technology, housing, drinking water, and transportation. Download below: 'Public perceptions of Child and Adult Poverty in Tonga', USP, 2019)
 
Below you can also download the 'Poverty Module Manual' for fieldworkers for the 2016 Household Expenditure and Income survey.
 

For details of using the consensual approach to produce small area estimates of poverty see Tonga - by area, in left hand menu and  'Small-Area Multidimensional Poverty Estimates for Tonga 2016: Drawn from a Hierarchical Bayesian Estimator', Héctor Catalán, Viliami Fifita and Winston Faingaanuku, Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy, July 2019 (open access). 

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Publication date: 
Oct 28 2019