2009 National Population and Housing Census


2009 Census V2The aim of this report is to provide an analysis of the 2009 Vanuatu population census data with a strong emphasis on demographic trends, patterns and levels.

The 2009 census determined that the total population was 234,023. This compares with 186,678 people in 1999, and represents an increase of 25.4% or 47,345 people. This population increase represents an average annual growth rate of 2.3%, or an increase of 4,733 people per year.

The 2009 census enumerated 119,091 males and 114,932 females, representing a sex ratio of 104 males per 100 females. The urban population was 57,195 people (24.4% of the total population), and includes the towns of Luganville in Sanma with 13,156 people, and Port Vila in the Shefa province with 44,039
people. The average population density for Vanuatu was 19 people/km². This varies widely between provinces. For example, Shefa had 52 people/km², while Torba and Sanma had only 11people/km².

The census counted 47,373 private households with 228,883 household members, which represents 4.8 people per household on average. More than 10% (25,451) of all people that live in private households live in households with 10 or more people. The 2009 census data show a net flow of people towards Shefa province from all other provinces during the 5-year period 2004–2009. However, the provinces Penama and Malampa lost the most people due to internal migration. 

Vanuatu has a young population with a median age of 20.5 years. More than one-third (39%) of the population was younger than 15 years of age, and only 6% were 60 years and older. The age dependency ratio was calculated using the 15–59 year-old age group as the “working age population”. For every 100 people of working age, 81 were in the age dependent category.

The number of births was estimated at 7,335 in 2009. This accounts for a crude birth rate (CBR) of 31.3 per 1000. The total fertility rate (TFR) — the average number of births per woman — declined from about 4.6 in 1999 to about 4.1 in 2009. Based on census data for the number of children ever born and still alive, the infant mortality rate (IMR) was estimated at 21; 22 for males and 19 for females. This estimate is lower than the 1999 levels when the IMR was 27 and 26 for males and females – and is thus an improvement in infant mortality rates.

Based on the 2009 census data, life expectancies at birth were estimated to be 69.6 and 72.7 years for males and females, respectively, representing an increase compared to 1999 when it was 65.6 and 69.0 years for males and females.

Based on the derived life tables, a crude death rate (CDR) of 5.4 per 1,000 was calculated, which were approximately 1,260 deaths in 2009. The estimated mortality indicators show more positive mortality indicators for females than for males, with females expected to live, on average, about three years longer than males.

Internal migration during the five year period 2004-2009 was primarily directed towards Shefa province and specifically to the capital Port Vila. The largest numbers of migrants came from Tafea, Malampa and Penama. Net international migration is estimated to be negligible during the intercensal period 1999–

Women marry at a younger age than men. The average age at marriage was 25.5 and 22.5 years for males and females, respectively.

The Presbyterian religion is with 28% of the total population, the most dominant in Vanuatu. The Anglican is the second largest, with 15%, followed by Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) and the Roman Catholic Church, each representing 12% of the Vanuatu population.

The 2009 census questionnaire included a question on smoking and drinking habits of the population aged 15 and older. It was found that 25% of the population smoked cigarettes; 45% of males and 4% of females. The age group that most likely smokes is 20–39 year-olds. In general, more than half of all males aged 20–39 smoke, while only about 5% of females. 

Furthermore, it was found that 10% of the population drinks alcohol; 17% of males and 3% are females. The age group that most likely consumed alcohols is 20–34 year-olds. In general, about one quarter of all males aged 20–34 drink alcohol, while less than 5% of females.

The proportion of the population consuming kava is much larger than that smoking or drinking alcohol. Almost one third of the population consumed kava; 53% of males and 8% of females. The age group that most likely consumed kava is 25–49 year-olds. In general, about two thirds of all males aged 25–49 drink kava, compared to about 10% of females.

Data on disabilities indicate that about 12% of the total population reported a disability. The proportion of the population with a disability increases with age, and there is very little difference in the proportion of males and females with a disability. While about 6% of children younger than 5 years of age had a disability, it was more than half of the population at age 60 years and older. Of those who reported disabilities, about 1,000 people could not walk at all, 800 people reportedly could not remember or concentrate, another 500 were deaf, and 400 people were blind.

School enrolment data show that 86% of children in the age group 6–13 years (compulsory school age) were enrolled in schools with female school enrollment rates slightly higher than male enrollment rates. However, school enrollment rates declined rapidly after the age of 13, and about 25% of 14 year-olds were not attending school. After the age of 16, male school enrollment rates were higher than female enrollment rates. In general, enrollment rates were significantly
higher in the urban than the rural areas.

Data on educational level completed indicate that in 2009, about half of the population 15 years and older had only a primary level education. About one quarter had a secondary level education, and almost 4% of the population aged 15 and older had a tertiary level education. Sixteen percent had never been to school or only attended preschool. Educational levels were significantly higher of the population in the urban area than in rural areas, and educational levels of males were higher than females.

Almost everyone (98%) older than 5 years of age living in the urban areas was literate. This compares to only 80% of the population 5 years and older in rural areas. Literacy rates were slightly higher for males than females. Literacy in Bislama was, with 74% of the population, the highest followed by English (64%), and French (37%). Half of the population is literate in a language other than Bislama, English or French. Literacy was measured by a respondent’s ability
to read and write a simple sentence in any language. 

Literacy rates were over 90% for the population aged 10-34, then it gradually declines after that, and is less than 70% of the population at age 65 years and older.

The literacy rate of 15–25 year-olds was 92% and 93% for males and females, respectively. The main language spoken in private households was a local language (63%), 34% speak Bislama, 2% English, and 1% French.


The internet was used by 7% of the population aged 15 years and older; this was 16% in the urban areas and only 3% in the rural areas.

Although a high percentage (71%) of Vanuatu’s population aged 15 and older was economically active, only a relatively small proportion (30%) received a regular paid income; this group consisted of 37% males and 23% females.

Subsistence work — such as growing or gathering produce or fishing to feed families — was the main activity of 32% of Vanuatu’s males and 28% females aged 15 and older. About 39% of the population in rural areas was subsistence workers compared with 5% in the urban centre.

Only about 4,500 people were categorised as being unemployed, resulting in an unemployment rate of 4.6%; 4.1% for males and 5.2% for females. The unemployment rates are 12% and 2% in the urban and rural areas respectively.

Fifty one people did not work because of poor weather conditions, or because they could not afford the transportation costs to work. In addition, 897 people did not work and did not look for work, because they believed that no work was available. Using the international definition of unemployment, these people were not classified as unemployed because they did not look for work and did not indicate that they were available for work. However, if all of these people were included in the unemployed category, the unemployment rate would increase to 5.5%.

If subsistence workers were included as part of the unemployed — on the grounds that these people would look for work if they believed cash work was available in their labour market community — the total unemployment level would increase to 46,395 people, or an unemployment rate of 47% (43% for males and 51% for females, and 20% for the urban area and 55% in rural areas). While this assumption would not apply to all individuals in this group, it would likely apply to a proportion of them. Depending on the assumptions a user of these data may wish to use, the resulting unemployment rate would fall somewhere between 4.6% and 47%.

The main source of household income was, with 46% of all households, the sale of fish, crops, or handicrafts. However, this was 60% of all rural households compared to only 3% of urban households, where 81% of all households’ main income was wages and/or salary.

Only 18% of rural household’s main source of income came from wages and/or salary. Only 11% of urban household were involved in marine fishing activities; this was 39% of rural households. Freshwater fishing activities were carried out by 4% and 21% of urban and rural households respectively.

While 81% of all rural households were involved in growing cash crops, only 17% of urban
households grow cash crops.

Compared to rural households, where 80% of households raised chickens, 57% raised pigs and 39% cattle, only a small proportion of urban households raised any livestock.

Regarding the availability of household items, a higher proportion of households in urban areas (compared to rural households) used items such as motor vehicles, gas stoves, fridge or freezer, TV, radio, and computers, as well as DVD decks. However, there are some items more commonly used in rural than in urban areas such as canoes and generators.

While 91% of urban households had at least one mobile phone compared to 71% in rural areas, there were 9% of urban households and 2% of rural households that had an internet connection.

Information on tenure reveals that 81% of all households owned their dwelling outright, while 12% rented their dwelling, and another 6% resided in their dwelling rent-free. More than 90% of households in the rural areas owned their dwelling, while 39% of urban households rented their dwelling.

Forty-six per cent of all households obtained their drinking water as piped water. The second most important source was a tank (34%). However, private piped water was only used by a significant proportion of households in the urban areas. Otherwise, 14% of all rural households obtained their water from a river, lake or spring.

The most frequently recorded toilet facility used by 47% of all private households was a pit latrine, while 21% of all households used a flush toilet; this percentage was 65% in the urban areas and only 6% in the rural areas.

The main source of lighting in Vanuatu was a kerosene lamp, used by an average of 48% of all households, although this percentage was only 6% in the urban areas, compared to 62% in the rural areas. Eighty per cent of urban households were connected to the electricity main grid. This was only 11% of the rural households.

The main energy source for cooking for 85% of all households was wood and/or coconut shells. It was almost universally used by the rural households and by slight more than half of the urban households, where 40% use gas as the main energy source for cooking.

About 52% of all households dispose of their waste by burning it. In the urban areas two in three households dispose their waste using the authorized waste collection.

With respect to the use of insecticide treated bednets, 76% of all households had at least one bednet available; this was 88% of rural households compared to only 38% of urban households.

According to population projections prepared for this report, Vanuatu’s population in 2030 will increase to about 370 thousand people, and to 483 thousand in 2050. The population will age, with a decreasing proportion of young people aged 15 and younger, and an increase in people aged 60 and older. The working age population (aged 15–59) will be almost twice as high in 2030 compared to 2009, and will comprise of about 300 thousand people in 2050. The school age population aged 6-13 years will increase from its current level of 40 thousand to 60 thousand.

Analysis of census data provides timely and accurate information about demographic trends, patterns and levels. Through census data analysis, governments acquire comprehensive and consistent information about their country’s population structure, population processes and socioeconomic characteristics. The population data provided in this report can be an effective tool for planning and policy-making. As policies are aimed at achieving goals in the future, knowledge
about future population trends is required.

Understanding and anticipating population changes enables development planners to formulate effective programmes in areas as diverse as health, education, environment, poverty reduction, social progress, and economic growth.