A development economist in the Cook Islands says depopulation will continue until the government starts funding infrastucture and industries in the outer islands.
The Statistics Office figures released this week show that i the past two years, the total resident population has dropped by 1000, from 14,400 to 13,400.
Vaine Wichman says the government needs to take the issue seriously, as more people leave the country to chase job opportunities.
Ms Wichman says people from Pa Enua, or outer islands, will be encouraged to stay if more funding is put into developing their handicrafts, fishing and agriculture projects.
"Rarotonga is always going to be the strong hub for the tourism sector, but it doesn't mean that our Pa Enua can't feed them, or our Pa Enua women handicraft can't merge into this thriving Rarotonga sector. We just haven't had serious government or leadership to make that integration."
Vaine Wichman says better harbours and airports would encourage people to return to the Cook Islands.