Demographics of Papua New Guinea
The indigenous population of Papua New Guinea is one of the most heterogeneous in the world. Papua New Guinea has several thousand separate communities, most with only a few hundred people. Divided by language, customs, and tradition, some of these communities have engaged in tribal warfare with their neighbors for centuries.
The isolation created by the mountainous terrain is so great that some groups, until recently, were unaware of the existence of neighboring groups only a few kilometers away. The diversity, reflected in a folk saying, "For each village, a different culture," is perhaps best shown in the local languages. Spoken mainly on the island of New Guinea, about 650 of these Papuan languages have been identified; of these, only 350-450 are related. The remainder seem to be totally unrelated either to each other or to the other major groupings. Native languages are spoken by a few hundred to a few thousand, although Engan, used in Enga Province, is spoken by some 130,000 people. Most native languages are extremely complex grammatically.
Tok Pisin serves as the lingua franca. English is the language of business and government, and all schooling from Grade 2 Primary is in English.
The overall population density is low, although pockets of overpopulation exist. Papua New Guinea's Western Province averages one person per square kilometer (3 per sq. mi.). The Simbu Province in the New Guinea highlands averages 20 persons per square kilometer (60 per sq. mi.) and has areas containing up to 200 people farming a square kilometer of land. The highlands have 40% of the population.
A considerable urban drift toward Port Moresby and other major centers has occurred in recent years. Between 1978 and 1988, Port Moresby grew nearly 8% per year, Lae 6%, Mount Hagen 6.5%, Goroka 4%, and Madang 3%. The trend toward urbanization accelerated in the 1990s, bringing in its wake squatter settlements, unemployment, and attendant social problems. Almost two-thirds of the population is Christian. Of these, more than 700,000 are Catholic, more than 500,000 Lutheran, and the balance are members of other Protestant denominations. Although the major churches are under indigenous leadership, a large number of missionaries remain in the country. The bulk of the estimated 2,500 Americans resident in Papua New Guinea are missionaries and their families. The non-Christian portion of the indigenous population practices a wide variety of religions that are an integral part of traditional culture, mainly animism (spirit worship) and ancestor cults.
Foreign residents are just over 1% of the population. More than half are Australian; others are from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the Philippines, and the United States. Since independence, about 900 foreigners have become naturalized citizens.
The traditional Papua New Guinea social structure includes the following characteristics:
- The practice of subsistence economy;
- Recognition of bonds of kinship with obligations extending beyond the immediate family group;
- Generally egalitarian relationships with an emphasis on acquired, rather than inherited, status; and
- A strong attachment of the people to land.
Most Papua New Guineans still adhere strongly to this traditional social structure, which has its roots in village life.
Population: 4,926,984 (July 2000 est.)
0-14 years: 39% (male 972,289; female 940,049)
15-64 years: 58% (male 1,470,158; female 1,365,523)
65 years and over: 3% (male 84,942; female 94,023) (2000 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.47% (2000 est.)
Birth rate: 32.68 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Death rate: 8 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.9 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2000 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 59.89 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 63.1 years
male: 61.05 years
female: 65.26 years (2000 est.)
Total fertility rate: 4.38 children born/woman (2000 est.)
noun: Papua New Guinean(s)
adjective: Papua New Guinean
Major ethnic groupings:
Minor ethnic groupings:
and over 700 others
Religions: Roman Catholic 22%, Lutheran 16%, Presbyterian/Methodist/London Missionary Society 8%, Anglican 5%, Evangelical Alliance 4%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1%, other Protestant 10%, indigenous beliefs 34%
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 72.2%
female: 62.7% (1995 est.)