PNG needs census: Dr Sanida

In a statement released in December 2022, Papua New Guinea National Research Institute (PNG NRI) Director, Dr Osborne Sanida said any “estimate” is just that, an “estimate” based on whatever method the party doing the estimation employed.

The estimate may either be close to the actual (truth) or far away from it depending on the method used. This applies to population as well. 

Dr Sanida further stated that, population estimates are based on methods used by Demographers (generally) in the estimation.

He said population estimates should never be taken to mean actual or factual.

“The only factual or rather close to factual will be the census figures (i.e. depending on how credible the census operation is) which we will know after the census is done. Without the Census, we can only project or estimate,” Dr Sanida added.

“PNG needs the Census to be done next year as planned and not delay further. So, we can know the actual population (or close to actual) for policy and planning purposes. For example, population data is needed to calculate per capita GDP; unemployment rate; employment figures; death rate; population density; incomes; and so forth. Population data is also necessary to plan for the provision of public goods and services such as schools and health facilities, water, electricity, etc.,” said the PNG NRI Director.

Dr Sanida said the population of Papua New Guinea is unknown. He explains that this is due to the absence of a recent or current census. However, estimates are available, which as mentioned above, are subject to methods employed.

He highlighted the recent UNDP estimate of PNG’s population of 17 million caused a stir and debate among researchers, academics and public officials and politicians.

“The NRI estimate of the PNG population for 2022 is 9,422,000 (McMurray and Lavu 2020), which as the authors put it, is conservative. So, the actual population is most probably above the 9.4 million estimate. But how far above that? We will have to wait for the census.”

“Based on the growth rates between past population periods, my inclination is that the population for PNG is between these two estimates but perhaps closer to 9.4 million than 17 million. But the 2023 Population Census cannot come soon enough so, we can know the actual or close to actual for policy and planning purposes,” said Dr Sanida.

Press Release