The French statistical office has just published the detailed results of the French Polynesian census that took place in August and September 2012.
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On August 22, 2012, the population of French Polynesia was 268,207 inhabitants. The population grew by +0.66% per year between the 2007 and 2012 censuses.
The population of the Papeete urban area was 144,770 inhabitants on August 22, 2012 (54.0% of French Polynesia's population live there). The population in the Papeete urban area grew by only +0.34% per year between 2007 and 2012. Population growth concentrated in the distant exurbs of Papeete (beyond the urban area) and in the outer archipelagos of French Polynesia (except the Tuamotus which experienced a population decline). This is in complete contrast to the past decades when the urban area of Papeete had grown much more than the outer archipelagos.
French Polynesia is made up of 4 distinct archipelagos spread over a territory the size of Europe: the Society Islands (where Tahiti is located; Papeete is on Tahiti island), the Tuamotus, the Marquesas, and the Austral Islands.
With only +0.66% per year between 2007 and 2012, population growth in French Polynesia has decreased considerably compared to previous census periods (it was nearly +2% per year in the 1990s, and still +1.2% per year in the early 2000s). This is the result of both a declining fertility and above all an unprecedented wave of emigration that occurred between 2007 and 2012 due to the economic crisis during the tenure of the incompetent pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru.
The total fertility rate (TFR) declined from 3.8 in 1988 to 2.1 in 2012. The natural growth rate (births minus deaths divided by total population) is still comfortably positive, thanks to the shape of the age pyramid (few old people and many young people due to previously high fertility). Between 2007 and 2012 the natural growth rate was +1.22% per year, which is stable compared to 2002-2007, but lower than in the 1990s and 1980s.
Net migration (immigrants minus emigrants), however, was catastrophic, at -0.56% per year between 2007 and 2012 (resulting in an overall population growth of +0.66% per year: 1.22 minus 0.56). In absolute terms, net migration was -1,500 people per year (-400 was due to Metropolitan Frenchmen relocating to Metropolitan France because of the closure of some French military bases in Tahiti, and -1,100 was due to native French Polynesians). Since this includes immigrants, it means the number of emigrants was larger than 1,500 every year (we don't have the details of inflows and outflows). French Polynesia is thus probably losing nearly 1% of its population every year because of emigration.
Where are these people going? Most probably to Metropolitan France and New Caledonia, where the economic situation is much better than in French Polynesia. When the New Caledonian census takes place next year we'll know by how much the French Polynesian population has increased there. There have been several articles in the press telling the stories of French Polynesians leaving Tahiti and settling in Nouméa.
Now for the cause of this unprecedented wave of emigration: according to the 2012 census, the unemployment rate in French Polynesia rose from 11.7% in 2007 to... 21.8% in 2012!
French Polynesia has never quite managed to recover from the end of nuclear testing in 1996, with the departure of thousands of military personnels and researchers which has depressed the local economy. The French central government has given some hefty subsidies to the government of French Polynesia to compensate for the end of nuclear testing, but the pro-independence government of Oscar Temaru, which was in power from 2004 to 2013, squandered all the money and was universally described as incompetent in terms of economics and public finances. Temaru and his party were voted out of office in the May 2013 local elections, and his main anti-independence opponent was returned to power. We'll see whether the new government manages to improve the economy (they are trying to attract Chinese investors and turn Tahiti into a air and sea hub between East Asia and South America).
Among those who have a job, 28% are employees in the public sector, 47% are employees in the private sector, and 25% are self-employed. For comparison, in Metropolitan France (the European part of France), 31% are employees in the public sector, 57% are employees in the private sector, and 12% are self-employed.
At the 2012 census, the percentage of people in French Polynesia holding a school degree was at its highest ever. Among the people whose age is 15 and older, 27% held a high-school degree (up from 23% at the 2007 census), and 12% held a university degree (up from 10.5% in 2007).
Now coming to housing, at the 2012 census there were 88,000 dwellings in French Polynesia, up 10% compared to the 2007 census. The number of people per dwelling thus decreased to 3.6 in 2012 (it was 5.0 in 1983). 86% of the French Polynesians live in detached houses, whereas 8% live in apartment buildings (condos). On the island of Tahiti, 12% of the population lives in apartment buildings.
In terms of household equipment, the 2012 census found this:
- running water: 90.3% of French Polynesian households have running water (in Tahiti and Moorea: 95.8% of households have running water)
- connection to the electricity network: 95.7% (in Tahiti and Moorea: 97.4%)
- connection to the sewage system: 17.5% (in Tahiti and Moorea: 19.8%, in the rest of the Society Islands: 19.9%, in the Tuamotus, Marquesas, and Austral Islands: 0%, as there exist no sewage systems there)
- toilets inside the dwelling: 93.6% (in Tahiti and Moorea: 95.9%)
- shower inside the dwelling: 92.8% (in Tahiti and Moorea: 95.6%)
- fridge: 91.0% (in Tahiti and Moorea: 94.7%)
- washing machine: 91.4% (in Tahiti and Moorea: 93.3%)
- at least one room with AC: 18.9% (in Tahiti and Moorea: 23.0%)
- at least one computer: 57.2% (in Tahiti and Moorea: 63.6%)
- internet connection: 42.7% (in Tahiti and Moorea: 49.3%)
- digital TV receptor: 85.6% (in Tahiti and Moorea: 87.9%)
- mobile phone: 89.9% (in Tahiti and Moorea: 92.4%)
- at least one car: 77.1% (in Tahiti and Moorea: 83.4%, in the Tuamotus: 38.5%)
- at least one boat: 12.4% (in Tahiti and Moorea only 8.8%, but in the Tuamotus 32.0%)
The percentage of households who have at least one computer rose from 46% in 2007 to 57% in 2012. Internet connection has also risen a lot. In Tahiti and Moorea, only one-third of households had an internet connection in 2007, but by 2012 half of the households had an internet connection. High-speed internet also arrived in French Polynesia in 2010, with the Honotua fiber optic cable linking Tahiti to Hawaii and from there the rest of the world.
Finally, 95% of people said they could speak, read, and write French, and 70% said it was the main language they spoke at home (29% said they spoke one of the Polynesian languages at home: in Tahiti and Moorea only one-fifth of the population speaks a Polynesian language at home, whereas in the outer archipelagos more than half of the population speaks a Polynesian language at home).