Definition of Youth

The chapter on Tonga in the Urban Youth in the Pacific Report (2011) notes that the Tonga national youth strategy defines youth as between 15-34 years.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • --
  • XX
  • Female
  • 18
  • 16
  • --

  • No data for male marriageable age with parental consent. Male homosexual acts illegal. Female homosexual acts legal. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
From 7-12 years old, the state must prove criminal capacity. A child below 7 cannot be held legally responsible for their actions. Source:  Criminal Offences Act of Tonga

Majority Age


Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 99.35% Male (15-24) %
  • 99.54% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 72.92%Male %
  • 80.31% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • -- Male (13-15) %
  • -- Female (13-15) %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
Following an analysis, the youth policy was adopted in 2007. A 2008 briefing and 2011 chapter exist.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community supported the development of a youth policy in 2005, which was adopted in 2007 as the Tonga National Youth Strategy (TNYS). An online version cannot be sourced. The youth policy chapter (2011) notes that the TNYS envisions that,

[t]he young people of Tonga have strengths and talents and must be given the opportunities to exploit them for their benefit and well-being as well as the improvement of their families and communities.
The Tonga National Youth Strategy focuses on five priority areas: employment creation; skill development; community service; healthy living; participation and advocacy. As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Tonga is a signatory of The Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment (PAYE) 2006-2015.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for “development of youth” and has incorporated the policy areas of the previous Ministry of Training, Employment, Youth & Sports (MOTEYS). The youth policy briefing (2008) notes that the MOTEYS had been formed in 2007 to act as a “focal point for action” but had faced challenges in implementing the National Youth Strategy due to coordinating across different government departments and a range of stakeholders. The youth policy chapter (2011) notes that a “Youth Stakeholder Forum” was formed to support this.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
The Tonga National Youth Congress (TNYC) is an umbrella organisation for youth groups and NGOs and delivers programmes focusing on “responsibility, good citizenship, community service and leadership.” According to the youth policy chapter (2011), the TNYC previously worked with the MOTEYS on implementing the National Youth Strategy and designing a new national youth policy. It also runs the annual Youth Parliament event. The TNYC is a member of the Pacific Youth Council, which in turn is a member of The Commonwealth Youth Council.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
TOP 25,629
USD 13,685
According to the Tonga Budget Statement 2013-2014, the budget for the “youth development programme” at the Ministry of Internal Affairs  was TOP 25,629 (USD 13,685). According to the World Bank, Tonga spent 13.50% of its government expenditure on education provision in 2003, and 3.90% of its GDP in 2004.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed August 2013).

Additional Background

The Urban Youth in the Pacific chapter on Tonga provides a summary of life for young people.
The majority of young people in Nuku’alofa and surroundings are not involved in crime and violence. A number of resilience factors deter youth from the path of crime and violence and enable them to engage meaningfully in society. These include strong faith networks, opportunities for meaningful engagement including training and employment, and Tonga’s high level of literacy and education, which enable students to focus their attention on social and political concerns in the world around them. Furthermore, the traditional collectivist structure of Tongan society, the importance of family reputation, the support of parents and extended families, a strong sense of Tongan values such as family honor and reputation and effective use of traditional structures to manage conflict and support young people to negotiate the complex path to adulthood were also very important enabling factors for success.
In-country consultations and available literature and statistics indicate that the majority of youth in Nuku’alofa are actively longing for employment and a meaningful way to use their time. They are caught up in the tensions of changing cultural norms and the corresponding conflicting messages about the role of youth and of young women in particular. The group that do become involved in crime and violence often come from homes where they lack parental and family support, are not successful in the formal education system, are marginal to church and other community-based groups, and end up vulnerable to peer pressure and alcohol abuse.
Nuku’alofa has a number of institutions, structures and services that exists for youth. However, this infrastructure needs to be strengthened through better linkages, more effective communication and coordination and more effort to reach the most marginalized youth, those who “don’t belong”, who are not involved in church groups and do not have strong family linkages
A Situation Analysis of Children, Women and Youth – Tonga provides further detail on the situation for youth.
The situation of children, youth and women in Tonga is generally good in terms of basic indicators of living standard and access to essential health and education services. Even so there is emerging poverty, mainly in the Nukuíalofa urban areas, and some families, especially those who have migrated and those that do not have access to overseas are now experiencing difficulty obtaining sufficient food and other necessities. The youthful population structure means a high dependency rate and necessitates expenditure of a substantial portion of the national budget on education and health services.
Perhaps the most important issue is that modernization is challenging traditional values, and the Tongan community is taking time to adapt to changing economic and social needs. The education system is not yet adapted to the needs of the modern labour market, while women's employment tends to be stereotyped and undervalued. The conflict between tradition and modernisation is also evident in nutrition, with much of the community, including children, youth and women, consuming modern foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar while being prevented by traditional attitudes from taking the exercise necessary to burn off the extra calories. This is contributing to early-onset NCDs and limiting gains in life expectancy.
Many youth concerns have their roots in the limited nature of opportunities for youth to participate in employment and the difficulty of finding their independent identity in a society that is part traditional and part modern. Traditional parenting methods are not fully preparing young people for the challenges of living in a modern society and conservative attitudes to the supply of contraception to unmarried people are putting teenagers at risk of pregnancy and STIs.