Papua New Guinea


The indigenous population of Papua New Guinea is one of the most heterogeneous in the world. Papua New Guinea hasseveral 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.


Tok Pisin (official), English (official), Hiri Motu (official), some 839 indigenous languages spoken (about 12% of the world's total); many languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers

note: Tok Pisin, a creole language, is widely used and understood; English is spoken by 1%-2%; Hiri Motu is spoken by less than 2%


Protestant 64.3% (Evangelical Lutheran 18.4%, Seventh Day Adventist 12.9%, Pentecostal 10.4%, United Church 10.3%, Evangelical Alliance 5.9%, Anglican 3.2%, Baptist 2.8%, Salvation Army 0.4%), Roman Catholic 26%, other Christian 5.3%, non-Christian 1.4%, unspecified 3.1% (2011 est.)




Papua New Guinea has 250 to 400 or more recognized groups, many divided into subgroups of considerable social and political importance. Most important ethnolinguistic categories: Hausa and Fulani in north, Yoruba in southwest, and Igbo in southeast, all internally subdivided. Next major groups: Kanuri, Ibibio, Tiv, and Ijaw.

The number of languages in Papua New Guinea is estimated at 350 to 400, many with dialects. Most important: Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo. Hausa major language in north. English official language used in government, large-scale business, mass media, and education beyond primary school.

Papua New Guinea's population is projected to grow from over 186 million people in 2016 to 392 million in 2050, making it the fourth most populous country in the world. This sustained high population growth rate is expected to continue due to population momentum and the country's high birth rate. However, the government of Abuja has been unable to successfully implement family planning programs to reduce and space births due to a lack of political will, funding, and the availability and affordability of services and products, as well as a cultural preference for large families. To encourage smaller families and better enable parents to make that choice, increased educational attainment, especially among women, and improvements in healthcare are needed.

To boost economic development, reduce widespread poverty, and channel its large number of unemployed youth into productive activities, Papua New Guinea needs to utilize the potential of its burgeoning youth population. While most movement within Papua New Guinea is internal, there is also significant emigration to other countries in the region and to the West, with many Papua New Guineans seeking economic opportunities, asylum, and higher education. Immigration, largely from other West African countries, is insufficient to offset emigration and the loss of highly skilled workers. Papua New Guinea is also a major source, transit, and destination for forced labor and sex trafficking.