Mapping the Youth Challenge

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Population characteristics are primary determinants of development and impact resource availability, utilisation and sustainability for current and future generations. In 2006, the total population of the Pacific Islands (island members of the Pacific Community) was estimated to be 9.2 million, representing an increase of about 1.6 million people since 2000. However, population distribution in the region has remained unchanged, with the five largest island countries and territories (those of Melanesia) having the vast majority (87.0%) of the regional population, followed by the much smaller island countries and territories of Polynesia (7.1%) and Micronesia (5.9%). The increase reflects an annual population growth rate of 3.1% per annum. If sustained, this growth rate would lead to a doubling of the Pacific Island population in 23 years, to 18.3 million people. In the six-year period 2000-2006, Melanesia’s population increased at an annual rate of 3.4 per cent, which is considerably higher than the rates in Polynesia (0.9%) and Micronesia (0.8%). With a median age of about 21 years, Pacific populations are very young compared to those in countries like Australia, France, New Zealand and United States (the metropolitan members of the Pacific Community), where the median ages are 35.6, 37.4, 33 and 35.2 years respectively.

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