The Fiji Museum - Virtual Museum

Labour

Contracted for 5 years, more than 60,000 Indians found hardship, toil and sadness during their girmit. Many of them were levied with fines and penalties which meant they had to work much longer than 5 years to pay off their contract. At the end of this time they could choose to work a further 5 years to pay for their trip back to India, or they could become free settlers in Fiji - more than 60% chose to remain in Fiji.

At the end of their period of indenture, most free Indians who chose to stay in Fiji became sugar cane farmers. Indian labour was vital to the growth of the sugar industry, the main industry of the colony. Others became hawkers, traders and artisans, or worked for Europeans. After 1900 free immigrants started arriving in Fiji from Punjab and Gujarat as skilled artisans, market gardeners, wholesalers and retailers. With the end of indentured labour in 1920 migrant numbers from India rose to meet increased demand for workers.