2,074,000 (2013); 26 per cent of people live in urban areas; growth 1.1 per cent p.a. 1990–2013; birth rate 27 per 1,000 people (43 in 1970); life expectancy 49 years (49 in 1970 and 59 in 1990).
The people are mostly Basotho, with a few thousand expatriate Europeans and several hundred Asians.
Sesotho and English are official languages; Zulu and Xhosa are also spoken.
Mainly Christians (Roman Catholics 56 per cent, and Lesotho Evangelicals and Anglicans 24 per cent); the rest hold traditional beliefs, which often coexist with Christianity (2006 census).
Public spending on health was nine per cent of GDP in 2012. Some 81 per cent of the population uses an improved drinking water source and 30 per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities (2012). Infant mortality was 73 per 1,000 live births in 2013 (137 in 1960). Lesotho is vulnerable to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases; a high proportion of young men work in other countries with serious AIDS problems. In 2013, 23 per cent of people aged 15–49 were HIV positive.
Public spending on education was 13 per cent of GDP in 2008. Primary school comprises seven years and secondary five, with cycles of three and two years. Some 66 per cent of pupils complete primary school (2010). The school year starts in March.
Higher education institutions include National University of Lesotho; Lesotho Institute of Public Administration and Management; Lesotho College of Education; Lerotholi Polytechnic; and Lesotho Agricultural College. Literacy among people aged 15–24 is 92 per cent (2010).
There are several independent weekly newspapers in English, including Lesotho Times, Public Eye and Sunday Express, and Makatolle and MoAfrica in Sesotho.
Radio is the most important source of information. Public broadcasters Radio Lesotho and Lesotho Television provide national services. There are several private commercial and faith radio stations. South African radio and TV are received in Lesotho.
Some 13 per cent of households have TV sets (2006). There are three personal computers per 1,000 people (2005).
Country code 266; internet domain ‘.ls’. Mobile phone coverage is confined to the main towns.
There are internet cafés in Maseru. Post office branches can be found in all the main cities.
For every 1,000 people there are 28 landlines, 863 mobile phone subscriptions and 50 internet users (2013).
New Year’s Day, Moshoeshoe’s Day (11 March), Workers’ Day (1 May), Africa/Heroes’ Day (25 May), King’s Birthday (17 July), Independence Day (4 October), Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Religious and other festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Good Friday, Easter Monday and Ascension Day.