Why Do so Many People Leave Hawaii?


Hawaii has lured thousands of people to its sparkling, romantic shores. Not just the pale, sun-driven tourists come here, but many people leave their families, friends, and pets to follow their dreams of a life in a warmer, simpler land. They arrive with a backpack or suitcase, waiting for their cars to come over on boats, to begin a new life in a new land.

Most people arriving in Hawaii enjoy the friendliness of the people around them. They feel hopeful and excited. Their next step: to look for a job. For many people, the job cirucuit is where the trouble begins. One of Hawaii’s strongest employment opportunities has always been plantation work. For over a hundred years, people from China, Japan, and the Phillipines have arrived in Hawaii to work the fields of the Hawaiian Islands. They have endured harsh living conditions, ill-treatment and low pay, in order to build a better life for their families. Unfortunately, plantation boss mentality still exists in Hawaii, and workers are not protected like they should be.

Take for instance, the break laws that exist in most of the United States. In Hawaii, there is no break law. Workers can be made to endure harsh working conditions, standing on their feet with no breaks all day. Hard to believe this happens? It does. If the company does not have a union to protect its workers, the workers are at the mercy of their bosses in Hawaii. Even if there is a union, there can be still be harsh and unfair treatment of workers.

Take the Department of Education, for instance. Many teachers arrive in Hawaii with high expectations, only to find out they have to wait from six weeks to three months to get their first paycheck. Teachers have been known to live on their credit cards, as they wait to get paid. The stress and financial burden can be a terrible way to start off a new job in a new place. Many teachers coming in from the mainland leave after their first year’s contract is up. Some have gone bankrupt before leaving. Many did not know they would have to wait so long to get paid.

The pay in Hawaii is low, and the living expenses are high. Many people in Hawaii work two and three jobs to survive. Those handsome Hawaiian men parking cars at the hotels, may be fire dancers at a luau later in the evening. This harsh strata of existence in Hawaii sets up economic resentments and a vast differential in living standards, which affects the entire population.

Unlike other states, that have freeways linking cities to cities, the Hawaiian Islands are connected by jets. Many families are separated by islands, and must struggle to meet the rising costs of airfare, to visit family and friends. Yes, this is the price for living in Hawaii. However, the cost of losing so many well-intentioned workers and professionals, who keep leaving Hawaii after suffering harsh working conditions, unfriendly business climate, and rising costs, is a blow to Hawaii. Those who remain are often stretched thin, overworked, and underpaid. With too few good doctors, lack of specialized educators, and universities on probation, Hawaii needs to find ways to hold onto its finest, who comes here with so much to offer, only to take it away again.