The population of Vanuatu will grow from 271,000 in 2014 to 483,000 by 2050, according to the new analytical report by Lowy Institute. Vanuatu is also one of the leaders in Melanesia by life expectancy rates.
The total population of the Pacific Islands is forecast to grow from 11 million to 17.7 million or more than 60 per cent by 2050, mostly in just four countries: Vanuatu, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea.
The outlook for the other Pacific Island nations is for either very slow population growth over the coming decades or no growth at all. This is the case in Tuvalu, Samoa, Palau, Marshall Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Niue, Cook Islands, FSM, and Nauru. The population of the FSM and Cook Islands, both freely associated states, could even decline as people continue to leave for the prosperity offered in the United States and New Zealand.
Life expectancy rates in the Pacific Islands are evidence of differing levels of development. They are highest in Cook Islands, Tokelau, Samoa, and Niue. In Melanesia life expectancy rates are far better in Vanuatu, Fiji, and Solomon Islands than in Papua New Guinea, which ranks far behind the rest of the region. In Papua New Guinea, a man can expect to live to 54 years, and a woman to 55. This is in contrast to Vanuatu, where life expectancy is 70 years for males and 73 for females. According to Save the Children, almost half the children of Papua New Guinea suffer from malnutrition, shortening lives and undermining future prosperity.
The most important consequence of a fast-growing population is the creation of a youth bulge, which is a large proportion of people between 15 and 24 years of age. Youth bulges can be found in populations across the Pacific region, from FSM to Tuvalu. However, they have the potential to undermine stability mainly in countries with low emigration and limited job opportunities for the young, such as Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and Solomon Islands.