UNFPA Pacific Sub-Regional Office
With the exception of Papua New Guinea, population sizes in the Pacific are below 1 million, ranging from as low as 1,170 to 839,324. While the total fertility rates have declined over the past several decades, if the current average population growth rate of PICs of 2.2% per annum is sustained, PICs population will more than double in the next 30 years. In some countries, high population growth rates are an issue that governments will have to address, particularly if population growth outstrips economic growth.
High population growth has meant more demand for services such as new schools for young children, new health centers and hospitals, the provision of affordable housing, services and amenities for the growing population. The lack of opportunities in the rural areas and outer islands has also seen a lot of rural urban migration as households and individuals look for better opportunities in the urban areas. High rural urban migration has put a lot more pressure on urban services and amenities such as affordable housing, electricity, water supply and sanitation, school and medical facilities and solid waste management systems. The challenge for PICs is to improve provision of goods and services in rural areas and create more opportunities and enhance quality of life to reverse or minimize the urban drift. This would also mean Governments providing appropriate incentives for investors and creating employment and income earning opportunities.
Internal and external migration is also an issue that is affecting PICs. In the smaller PICs, most are migrating to New Zealand, Australia and United States of America looking for better opportunities.
High fertility rates amongst teenagers in the Pacific contribute to the high population growth rates. The unmet need for family planning is evident by the high adolescent fertility rates and is being addressed by many PICs. However, sustained and focused attention to this adolescent reproductive health is needed.
For the small low lying atoll countries like Kiribati and Marshall Islands (RMI) rural to urban migration (movement of people from the outer islands to the urban centers) is putting significant pressure on urban services and the environment. Population density in the urban areas in Kiribati and Ebeye in RMI has caused undue pressure on the urban water supply systems, sanitation and solid waste management systems which is also a burden on the already fragile eco-systems. For Tuvalu, rising sea level due to global warming is having a substantial effect on food systems with flooding of water tables affecting arable land as well as contributing to higher population density.
The contraceptive prevalence rates (CPR) for the 15 PICs, which ranged from 20.5 to 46.1, underscore the high unmet need for family planning. Despite family planning programmes being around since the 1970s in most countries, CPRs are still relatively low, with increases observed in most PICs since the 1990s. In some countries, these rates have stagnated in recent years. The high adolescent fertility rates in some countries - Marshall Islands, Vanuatu and Kiribati - is an indication that this critical group are not well served with current sexual and reproductive health services.