Cook Islands 2011 census header
On 1 December, 2011, 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.

Home on Penrhyn
There are 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. 
Government statistician
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Very free range livestock
The resident population of the Islands on census day was 14,974.   And there are an almost equal number of men (7,490) and women (7,484).  24 residents in prison at the time of the census were excluded from the count.

Rarotonga  793
Aitutaki 200
Mangaia 67
Atiu 89
Mauke 84
Mitiaro 30

Manihiki 113
Penrhyn 52
Rakahanga 64
Pukapuka 53
Nassau 2
Palmerston 3

The figures below are the number of residents who have left since the 2006 census
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

Motorbikes are the most common form of transport in the Islands, with 6,186 across the country.  That's 11.4 per cent more than five years ago.   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 are 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 is NZ$15,028 (UKĀ£7,829, US$12,624, AUS$11,946, 9,510 Euros), according to the latest census.  Men earn about NZ$3,600 a year more than women and the highest earners are 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 approximate and based on rates in January, 2013
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. 
First Cook Islands baby of 2013
71% of women over 15 have at least one child.  Most have up to three.  130 women (2%) have more than 10.  Pictured left is 18 year old Pukapukan mother Tinotai Ataela who gave birth at Rarotonga hospital to the first child of 2013 in the Islands.

  • 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
The detailed census report is available to download from the Statistics Department by clicking on this link (pdf format)
Just over half the resident population is under 30.  Here's how the figures break down...
Under 15:  4,332
15-29: 3,242
30-49:   5,028
50-64:  2,100
65 and over:  1,342

Elderly resident
Young Cook Islanders
Most stark, but not surprising, is that  a population decline which started in the 1970s is not only continuing, but gathering momentum.   Rakahanga, in particular, has been hit hard.  The population there has almost halved (from 141 to 77) in the past five years.  (Indeed, the latest report from the government statistics office shows that the resident population has gone down further since the September, 2013 it was estimated at 13,700)
Villa home
Traditonal kikau hut

Rarotonga  10,572  (73.6%)
Other southern group islands  3,290 (20.2%)
Northern group  1,112 (6.2%)
Aitutaki has the second largest population (1,171).  Palmerston has the smallest (60) and is counted as part of the Northern group in the census figures.  Pukapuka is the most densely populated (347 people per square kilometre.  Mitiaro is the least populated (8 per sq. km)

Laptops in Mitiaro school
Computers have reached every part of the Islands.  There are 2,921, which means nearly one in five of the population has one.   There's even one on tiny Nassau.  Not surprisingly, most are on Rarotonga where they're in 56 per cent of households (1,768).  

Televisions are still the most common entertainment item (5,325).  DVD players (4,319) are very widely used as are video game consoles (1,139) and MP3 players are becoming more commonplace too (1,290).  
Irons are the most common household appliance (in 4,130 homes), followed by hair cutters (2,096), vacuum cleaners (1,949) and sewing machines (1,947).  Hair straighteners are also very popular (1,403).   But only 802 homes own an electric shaver.  The photo is from the "One Laptop Per Child" project and was taken on Mitiaro by the project team
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