Papua New Guinea : Society


Population density (per sq. km): 


Life expectancy: 
62 years

7,321,000 (2013); 13 per cent of people live in urban areas; growth 2.5 per cent p.a. 1990–2013; birth rate 29 per 1,000 people (42 in 1970); life expectancy 62 years (43 in 1970).

The people are of mixed (mostly Melanesian) race, with small communities of Polynesians on outlying atolls. There is a declining non-indigenous population (several thousand Australians and a small Chinese population).


The official language is English, but Tok Pisin (an English-based Creole) is more widely used, and Hiri Motu is spoken around Port Moresby; there are over 800 indigenous languages.


Christians 90 per cent (predominantly Protestants), though Christian beliefs often coexist with traditional beliefs.


Public spending on health was four per cent of GDP in 2012. State- and church-run hospitals, dispensaries and clinics, with charges low and related to ability to pay. Some 40 per cent of the population uses an improved drinking water source and 19 per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities (2012). Infant mortality was 47 per 1,000 live births in 2013 (143 in 1960). In 2013, 0.7 per cent of people aged 15–49 were HIV positive.


There are 12 years of school education comprising six years of primary and six of secondary, with cycles of four and two years. The school year starts in January.

There are four public universities: the University of Papua New Guinea (Port Moresby); Papua New Guinea University of Technology (Lae); University of Goroka (Goroka), which trains teachers; and University of Natural Resources and Environment (Kerevat, East New Britain), which trains people for agriculture and natural resource management. The longest-established private universities include one founded by the Roman Catholic Church, Divine Word University at Madang; and one by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Pacific Adventist University at Boroko, Port Moresby. The National Polytechnic Institute at Lae is one of several tertiary institutions offering courses in technical and vocational education. Literacy among people aged 15–24 is 68 per cent (2010).


Two daily papers, The National and Post-Courier, are published in English.

In such a large and sparsely populated country radio is the most important information source for most people. The National Broadcasting Corporation provides national and provincial radio stations; and there are several private radio stations.

The private TV service, EMTV, and public National Television Service are only received in and around Port Moresby and the provincial capitals.

Some ten per cent of households have TV sets (2006). There are 64 personal computers per 1,000 people (2005).


Country code 675; internet domain ‘.pg’. Mobile coverage is limited. Internet access is generally slow.

For every 1,000 people there are 19 landlines, 410 mobile phone subscriptions and 65 internet users (2013).

Public holidays: 

New Year’s Day, Queen’s Official Birthday (Monday in June), Remembrance Day (23 July), Independence and Constitution Day (16 September), Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Regional festivals are held at various times during the year.

Religious festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Good Friday and Easter Monday.