Papua New Guinea’s population doubles overnight: Researchers find the country has 17 million people instead of 9.4 million
- Papua New Guinea’s population could be nearly double the previous figure
- The total population of Papua New Guinea is estimated at about 17 million
- This is almost double the previously thought underestimated total of 9.4 million
Papua New Guinea government officials are perplexed after a survey found the country’s population could be nearly double the previous official figure.
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape was forced to admit he did not know how many people lived on the Pacific island he governed, as a United Nations study contradicted the government’s previous total .
The United Nations Population Fund said Papua New Guinea’s total population could be 17 million – previously thought to be about 9.4 million.
The small island nation, known for its beautiful nature, is located south of the equator and shares a land border with Indonesia. But the country is also one of the most dangerous and violent nations in the world, with large areas ruled by tribal gangs.
The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape, had to admit that he did not know how many people lived on the Pacific island he controlled. He is pictured in November 2022
The error in population counting could have seismic consequences for the country’s economy.
With the new figure almost double the previous population, the country’s per capita income has halved, leaving the average salary at around £930.
As a result, it is now one of the poorest countries in the world – comparable to the standard of living in countries such as Sudan and Senegal.
The miscalculation is an embarrassment for the government of Papua New Guinea, and in particular for Marape, who recently won re-election on a promise to raise living standards.
The government has even gone so far as to refuse publication of the Papua New Guinea study.
Neighboring Australia currently gives about $600 million a year to its northern neighbour. If the new estimate is correct, the international aid program will be more ineffective than previously thought.
The implication of the new result also means there is only one doctor for every 10,000 people.
The new population estimate makes it one of the poorest countries in the world. The tropical west of Papua New Guinea is depicted.
Prime Minister Marape responded to the study’s claim, rejecting the estimate, saying it was far too high.
He told The Australian newspaper: ‘Whether it is 17 million, or 13 million, or 10 million, the fact remains that my country’s formal economy is so small, the availability of jobs is so small, the resources are so small, I don’t can provide adequate education, cannot provide health insurance, build infrastructures and create a facilitating environment for law and order [that the country needs].’
The United Nations Population Fund carried out the study in collaboration with the University of Southampton. Using satellite information and housing data, they were able to correct the misreported population estimate.
One of the reasons why the population was so badly underestimated is the increase in the number of people living in the remote highlands of the island. Communities live on subsistence farming, provide for themselves and go missing.
It is also particularly dangerous in the highlands, where much of the land is considered unmanaged and controlled by tribal gangs.