PNG's socio-economic position has been ranked lower than all other Pacific countries (as measured by the Human Development Index). Despite an abundance of natural resources, it is estimated that 37 per cent of the population live below poverty line.
Although there has been economic growth in the last decade, the growth has been unequal. In many communities in PNG, the lack of natural resources, lack of potential for economic growth and development of industry mean there is limited opportunity for formal employment. There is intensified pressure on agricultural land and local resources, which has implications for people and communities who have traditionally relied on subsistence farming as a means sustaining their livelihoods.
The education system in PNG faces a number of challenges. Only an estimated 57% of the population is literate, and school enrolment rates are below average for all low income states. There is a large difference in school attendance rates for males and females in secondary and tertiary education.
Meeting the demand for teachers can also be problematic, as many teachers refuse to accept positions in schools in remote or isolated areas. Additionally, as PNG continues to undergo reforms in the education sector, local teachers are required to undertake full-time training to upgrade their qualifications. This can result in disrupting the workforce in educational institutions.
Many health indicators in PNG have deteriorated in recent years, with a major shortage in trained medical personnel. This situation is compounded by the population being spread across numerous islands and a vast geographical area, making it very challenging to provide cost-effective health services to isolated areas and outer islands.
Maternal mortality remains high, with 230 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. HIV/AIDS has increasingly become a major health issue in PNG, with an adult prevalence of 0.9%. HIV/AIDS has been identified as a major threat to the development of the nation, with PNG becoming the fourth country in the Asia-Pacific region, and the first Pacific country, to have a generalised HIV epidemic.
PNG has suffered serious environmental problems since the beginning of its economic development, and is now facing further problems due to the effects of climate change. Some of the most pressing issues include coastal flooding, inland flooding and landslides, deforestation, species extinction, land degradation, and pollution. Although PNG has signed 46 multilateral environmental agreements, there are no strong mechanisms in place to safeguard the environment.
   CIA Fact book
 MDG report