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On 1 December, 2016, the latest snapshot of the Cook Islands and its people was taken through the once-every-five-years census.  It's not an easy task because of the wide geographical spread of the Islands, but it gives a unique insight into life and its an essential tool to help the government plan how and where to spend money.

The resident population of the Islands on census day was 17,434   There were 8,914 females and 8,520 males.  The figures include non-residents (mostly tourists)

The population of the Islands has been declining since the 1970s.  Aitutaki has seen the biggest decline in population - from 2,038 in 2011 to 1,941 at this census.  But this time round there are some small, but encouraging signs on the remote  outer islands.  Rakahanga, which saw its population nearly halve (from 141 to 77) between 2006 and 2011 has seen a modest increase of 6 residents (up from 7 to 83).  Neighbouring Nassau is up from 73 to 78 people and Penryn has 13 more (up from 213 to 226).

The latest census findings will be broken down further over coming months.  In the meantime, here's some additonal information from last time round
Villa home
Traditonal kikau hut
Rarotonga  13,007 (75% of the population)
Other southern group islands  3,326  (3,290 in 2011)
Northern group  1,101 (1,112 in 2011)
Aitutaki has the second largest population (1,941)  Palmerston has the smallest (58) and is counted as part of the Northern group in the census figures


Almost half the population (8,050) is under 30. 
Here's how the figures break down...
Under 15:  4,296
15-29: 3,754
30-49:   4,438
50-64:  3,142
65 and over: 1,804

Young Cook Islanders
Rarotonga  13,007, down 88
Aitutaki 1,941, down 97
Mangaia 499, down 73
Atiu 434, down 46
Mauke 297, down 10
Mitiaro 155, down 34

Manihiki 212, down 27
Penrhyn 226, up 13
Rakahanga 83, up 6
Pukapuka 444, down 7
Nassau 78, up 5
Palmerston 58, down 2

Takutea and Manuae are deserted islands, so don't feature in the census.  Also not included here is Suwarrow where there is no permanent resident population...just two caretakers from April to October

The figures below compare the latest figures with the ones from the previous census in 2011
Home on Penrhyn
There were 4,372 occupied private homes in the Islands, 72% (3,154) of them on Rarotonga.  Nassau and Palmerston have the fewest with just 13.  Most homes have four rooms (excluding kitchens and verandas).   And the majority are occupied by two people.  32 homes have more than 11 people living in them.  57.6% of homes are made of concrete blocks, and 37.2% of hardboard, wood or timber. 95% have iron roofs and the remainder are made of kikau or other materials. 
Very free range livestock
Motorbikes are the most common form of transport in the Islands, with 6,186 across the country.   Two thirds are on Rarotonga.   There are just 1,856 cars, 90 per cent of them on the capital island.  The only cars in the Northern group are on Penrhyn and Pukapuka where there were four on each island. 
Happy bikers
Church and RC Cathedral
Religion continues to be an important part of national life.  94% associated themselves with a faith.  The Cook Islands Christian Church remains dominant with 49% (7,356) of the resident population naming it as their religious denomination.   Roman Catholicism was the next largest group with 2,540 members (17%).  1,190 (8%) said they were Seventh Day Adventists.
Fishing at Palmerston
The average income in the Islands in 2011 was NZ$15,028 (UKĀ£7,838, US$10,276, AUS$14,278, 8,989 Euros),  Men earned about NZ$3,600 a year more than women and the highest earners were on Rarotonga where salaries are nearly double those in the outer islands.  The census also found that 13 per cent of over 15s had no income, while 4% earned over NZ$50,000 a year.  Currency conversions are approximate
Coconuts and tree (Cook Islands biodiversity website)
Coconut palms are everywhere, so it's not surprising that the census included a question about their fruit.   Nearly 3,000 households estimated they ate 28,461 coconuts in a single week, which is an average of 10 per home.  And 123,427 were fed to livestock each week. 
While fishing and farming continue to be an important part of Islands' life, the main industry is described as "trade, restaurants and accommodation"; 36.6% said they were employed in this area.   65% of all work is in the private sector.  19% of employees on Rarotonga work for the public sector and on tiny Nassau everyone does.   8.2% of men and 8.1% of women are unemployed. 
  • Over 90% of people can speak English
  • Mains electricity is available in over 99% of all homes and 6% of them have access to solar or wind power
  • Tivaevae (traditional patchwork items) are the most common historical artefacts found in homes
  • 87% of people have a public supply as their main source of water; 23.1% reported drinking from a rainwater tank
  • Nearly half of all women and 44% of men have secondary qualifications and 11.2% of women and 9.7% of men have tertiary qualifications
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