800,000 (2013); distribution is very uneven, with high concentration of people along the coastal strip and many inland areas virtually uninhabited; 28 per cent of people live in urban areas; growth 0.4 per cent p.a. 1990–2013, depressed over this period by emigration; birth rate 20 per 1,000 people (38 in 1970); life expectancy 66 years (60 in 1970).
The ethnic origins of the people are: 44 per cent Indian (resident mostly in agricultural areas); 30 per cent African (mostly in towns); 17 per cent of mixed descent; nine per cent Amerindian (mainly in the west and south, or on reserves; data from 2002 census).
English is the official language, Guyana being the only English-speaking country in South America. An English-based Creole is widely used; Hindi, Urdu and Amerindian languages are also spoken.
Christians about 57 per cent (Pentecostals 17 per cent, Roman Catholics eight per cent, Anglicans seven per cent, Seventh Day Adventists five per cent), Hindus 28 per cent, Muslims seven per cent (2002 census).
Public spending on health was four per cent of GDP in 2012. The Public Hospital at Georgetown is the national referral hospital; there are some 30 hospitals and many health centres throughout the country, with both public and private care available, the former usually free. Some 98 per cent of the population uses an improved drinking water source and 84 per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities (2012). Infant mortality was 30 per 1,000 live births in 2013 (100 in 1960). In 2013, 1.4 per cent of people aged 15–49 were HIV positive.
Public spending on education was three per cent of GDP in 2012. There are nine years of compulsory education starting at the age of six. Primary school comprises six years and secondary five, with cycles of three and two years. Some 83 per cent of pupils complete primary school (2008). The school year starts in September.
Tertiary institutions include the University of Guyana (established in 1963), which has law and medical schools, and campuses at Turkeyen, Georgetown, and Tain Corentyne, Berbice (in the east of the country); Cyril Potter College of Education, based at the Turkeyen campus of the university, with branches at Linden, New Amsterdam and Rose Hall; Guyana College of Agriculture; and Commonwealth Youth Programme Caribbean Centre at Georgetown (which trains youth workers from Commonwealth countries in the region). The University of Guyana also provides adult education programmes. The female–male ratio for gross enrolment in tertiary education is 2.40:1 (2011).
The state-owned Guyana Chronicle/Sunday Chronicle and privately owned Stabroek News and Kaieteur News are dailies.
The National Communications Network provides public radio and TV services.
There are 38 personal computers per 1,000 people (2005).
Country code 592; internet domain ‘.gy’. Internet connections are slow but improving, and there are internet cafés in Georgetown. There are post offices in the urban areas.
For every 1,000 people there are 196 landlines, 694 mobile phone subscriptions and 330 internet users (2013).
New Year’s Day, Republic Day (Mashramani, 23 February), Labour Day (1 May), Arrival Day (5 May), Independence Day (26 May), CARICOM Day (first Monday in July), Emancipation Day (first Monday in August), Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The Republic Day celebrations continue for about a week, though only one day is a public holiday.
Religious and other festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Prophet’s Birthday, Phagwah (Holi, March), Good Friday, Easter Monday, Deepavali (Diwali, October/November) and Eid al- Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice).