Tourism & business boost: PNG re-establishes Cairns consulate
NSW north coast kiaps celebrate award of Service Medal

Expert worried as PNG population reaches 7.8 million


May_Prof RonAN AUSTRALIAN ACADEMIC SAYS Papua New Guinea's current population growth rate is extraordinarily high and has serious implications for the country.

The government has just released census data from 2011 which revealed the country's population had reached 7.3 million. This is estimated to have increased to about 7.8 million, with a growth rate of 3.1 percent.

A Melanesian expert at the Australia National University, Ron May (pictured), says such a high rate of growth could pose problems.

"In some parts of the country, there are already pressures on land,” he said.

“The high rate of population growth is also putting a lot of pressure on the education system, the health system, not to mention urban housing and so on. It's got quite serious implications."

Ron May says government, churches and NGOs all have a role to play in population policy.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Michael Dom

Thanks Keith Dahlberg for the reality check.

Yes, I recommend that people start to 'learn to like the urban slums' because it doesn't seem that we want to do anything more positive about our population growth.

As for being educated fed and healthy, yes, those are essential requirements merely for survival in the modern world.

But equally as important; people need employment and empowerment.

Unless we can create jobs or enable people to pursue their livelihoods successfully then it doesn't matter how many people and resources we have or don't have, as an economy, we'll still be going around in circles.

Keith Dahlberg, M.D.

Rapid population growth in PNG is indeed a cause for concern. A growth rate of 3.1 per cent means that in a population of 7.3 million people (in 2011), the total population of PNG increases by a million people every four years.

In reply to Mr. Yapis, increasing population becomes a resource only if educated, fed, and healthy. China and India do have huge populations but are doing everything they can to slow their population growth.

Governor Juffa's comment, "Where are the services and infrastructure?" is more realistic.

A few couples choose to have large families, and that's okay, if they can provide the financial and emotional support needed to raise healthy kids. By most reports, the majority of PNG families can not.

When I worked in a rural Thai hospital in the 1960s and 70s, I ran a survey of all the women patients I saw one year between the ages of 15 and 45. Most were Thai townspeople or Karen hill farmer's wives.

Those near the end of child-bearing age had had an average of eight children; and had lost two to four to childhood illnesses. When asked how many they would have preferred, most women said two, or three, but they didn't know how to limit the number. Thailand, at that time, had a population growth rate of 3.5%.

With mass publicity (mostly about the use of condoms or an injection once every three months of a medicine called Depo Provera (to prevent the release of the egg from a woman's ovary), several things became evident over the next ten years:

- Thailand's population growth dropped from 3.5% to about 2%.

- Depo Provera became widely popular (until the manufacturer raised the price.) My small hospital had 1,200 women taking it; some villages hired a bus every three months to transport them.

-Women who could now space their babies two or more years apart, were healthier, stronger, less anaemic. Fewer died in childbirth; fewer babies starved to death. (When the mother died, the father often had to by milk powder, and usually diluted it with more and more water, because of cost.)

There are other methods of family planning: the rhythm method (some guess-work required), or an implant under the skin every five years instead of a shot every three months; orb tube tie or vasectomy for those who are sure they already have all the children they want; None of these involves an abortion.

For those women who were not satisfied with any of these methods, I used to recommend orange juice. This led them to ask eagerly, "Well, do I drink it before, or after . . .?" To which I replied, "Neither. You drink it instead."

Or learn to like the spreading urban slums and poverty.

Mike Yapis

Population growth has good and bad implications. Increased population puts pressure on services such as health, education, infrastructure etc.

However, for PNG to grow, population is a resource. We need to grow the economy faster than the population growth, and provide the services.

We have the land and resources. We should not be scared. Look at China, India, Brazil. They have huge populations, and they are growing rapidly.

So lets see the positives and also the negatives of a higher population and have a balanced debate.

Gary Juffa

Population growth is certainly a cause for concern. At the current rate, we are seeing the entry of almost 300,000 new citizens - the size of a small province!

Where are the services and infrastructure? Resources continue to be depleted worldwide and the negative impact on the environment is profound and yet the world population continues to grow. It is really a cause for concern.

There is no national family planning policy in place or other strategies such as awareness and so forth to curb population growth in Papua New Guinea.

Add to this land grabbing, increased cost of living, urban drift, decaying rural townships and stations and therefore the services that go with them and PNG will certainly start facing major social unrest.

Already unemployment is a problem contributing to increased crime and poverty!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)