The Demography of Oceania from the 1950s to the 2000s

Demography of the world's regions: situation and trends
A Summary of Changes and a Statistical Assessment
By Jean-Louis Rallu, Godfrey Rogers, Robert Reay-Jones


Oceania is made up of 17 independent countries and 6 territories totalling 35 million inhabitants, of which 73% live in Australia and New Zealand. This chronicle describes the major socio-demographic and health trends since the 1950s in the region as a whole, in its four sub-regions (Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia and Australia – New Zealand) and, where possible, in each country. The most reliable recent data are given in an statistical appendix. An introductory presentation of the region’s geographical, institutional and economic diversity is followed by a description of demographic growth rates, population size and structure, nuptiality, fertility and its determinants, mortality (overall, infant, maternal), child health, migration, urbanization and access to education. As in the other regions of the world, the demographic regimes in Oceania have diversified over the last two decades. Natural growth is slowing down, but still ranges between 0.6% and more than 2% per year in the different countries. Fertility is declining everywhere, but levels are highly contrasting (around 2 children per woman in six countries, above 4 in seven others). Life expectancy is also increasing, but varies between 61 years in the sub-region of Melanesia and 80 years in Australia – New Zealand. Likewise, infant mortality ranges from 5 to 50 per 1,000. The proportion of urban dwellers is quite small in most of the island countries. Migration has played a major role in the population dynamics of Oceania, and continues to do so, notably through the emigration of young adults. Access to education is practically universal in the vast majority of countries.

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