DP90 Estimating the population of Papua New Guinea in 2020

Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper No. 90

By Mike Bourke and Bryant Allen

January 2021

The present national population of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is not known. There is no official estimate of the population of the country in 2020 and figures by others are usually between 8 and 9 million people. Our purpose is to make estimates of the likely range of population more readily available. We generate estimates of the PNG population in 2020, using the 2000 base-year population and three growth rates from different inter-census periods. We conclude that the estimated population in PNG in mid-2020 was likely to be between 8.8 and 9.6 million people, with a caveat that reliable census data may have revealed a different total population. We also generate projections of provincial populations in mid-2020, and present data on the population of the 27 urban centres that had more than 4,000 people in the 2011 census. Finally, we offer some suggestions for the next national census.

Note: This discussion paper was amended in January 2023 to include 2011 population numbers for Aitape and Rabaul and recalculate the total in Table 5.

Bourke, B. & Allen, B. 2021, ‘Estimating the population of Papua New Guinea in 2020’, Discussion Paper No. 90, Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra.

Karen Downing

Karen Downing is Research Communications Coordinator at the Development Policy Centre.