Poverty in Tonga

“As we embark on this great collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind. Recognizing that the dignity of the human person is fundamental, we wish to see the goals and targets met for all nations and peoples and for all segments of society. And we will endeavour to reach the furthest behind first.” (2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development)

This report in its entirety reflects the commitment of the Tonga Statistics Department to provide informed information on poverty status by assessing the progress made towards the reduction of multidimensional, extreme and monetary poverty of the people in the Kingdom of Tonga. By reporting on these three different approaches to poverty contained within one report, the Tonga Statistics Department believes that it will give a better understanding of national poverty to the users of this report, thereby contributing to the pledge of leaving no one behind by reducing those experiencing poverty in any of its forms.

While the analysis within this report uses the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) 2021 dataset, there are two distinct parts within.

Part 1 reports in-depth on Multidimension Poverty using the Consensual Deprivation Approach, and provides the multidimensional poverty line which is also Tonga’s national poverty line.

On the other hand, Part 2 reports in-depth on Income Monetary Poverty and Living standard Inequality using the Cost of Basic Needs approach for a Living methodology and provides the cost of basic needs to define the poverty line.

Multidimensional poverty (SDG 1.2.2) is reported using the consensual deprivation approach (CA), which was previously used to estimate this type of poverty in 2015/2016. 

According to the latest data, multidimensional poverty in Tonga declined from 27% in 2015 to 24% in 2021. However, this reduction varied across different population groups. Child poverty experienced the most significant decrease, dropping from 33% to 28%. On the other hand, poverty among adults had a slight reduction, from 23% to 21%. 


Multidimensional poverty by age group (%)
Population Adults Children
Poor 24 21 28
Vulnerable deprivation 15 15 15
Vulnerable income 20 18 22
Non-poor 41 46 35
Total population (N) 100,179 62,949 37,230

Population living below $1.90 a day

Population living below $1.90 a day
Year 2001 2009 2016 2022
% 2.8 1.1 3.1 <1.0

The proportion of Tonga’s population considered poor due to low living standards, known as the “cost of basic needs poverty headcount ratio”, is estimated to be 20.6%. This equates to 20,661 people considered poor in 2021. This poverty rate is derived from comparing consumption per adult equivalent (AE) with a poverty line estimated at annual amount of TOP $6,058 (approximately USD $2,618). This poverty line is calculated as the cost of basic needs for living, based on the HIES data. 

Poverty varies by the geographic location, education level, and labour market characteristics of the household.  

Poverty rate by region

 Region Poverty rate (%) 
Tonga       20.62 
Tongatapu  18.61 
       Urban Tongatapu  13.35 
        Rural Tongatapu  21.13 
Vava’u  25.22 
Ha’apai  21.38 
‘Eua  32.34 
Ongo Niua  32.92