With the cost of living being high in New Caledonia, I am often asked if the salaries are commiserate. How are people able to make it here - given that rent, food and clothing are all expensive?
The retirees receive their monthly pensions and then some. They are what we call "indexé". They can receive up to 20-40% more on top of their pensions. Again, this goes back to way back when when it took a week to get here by boat. France esteemed that those willing to travel to, and live in, such a faraway place should be recompensed for such a thing. There is some debate at the moment as to whether or not the indexation should be stopped (it costs France and its taxpayers a pretty penny) - or at least rewarded to those who have worked on the island. For you see, French citizens who come to retire here can receive such an indexation, never having worked here.
Lastly, there are the islanders (from Lifou, Maré and Ouvéa) who come to Nouméa to make a living. My hunch is that they carve out a life for themselves, but it is no picnic. Some of them live in the ghettos - thereby avoiding paying rent and electricity, so as to send more back home. They work as hard as they can and their kids generally stay back on the islands with the tribes. As there is little or no work on the islands, living and working in Nouméa is one of their only choices.
Methinks there is a fifth population - the Caldoches, the island's white local population. They own businesses and nice homes. They've been here a long time and have worked hard for all that they have. They send their kids to mainland France to get good educations and they invest in New Caledonia to keep it thriving.