190,000 (2013); 19 per cent of people live in urban areas; growth 0.7 per cent p.a. 1990–2013, depressed over this period by emigration, mostly to New Zealand; birth rate 26 per 1,000 people (39 in 1970); life expectancy 73 years (55 in 1970).
Predominantly Polynesian population, with small minorities of Chinese, European, or other Pacific descent. The people live mainly in extended family groups, known as aiga. These groups are headed by a leader, known as matai, who is elected for life. The population is largely concentrated in villages close to the shore. There are 131,103 Samoans living in New Zealand, more than half of whom were born there (2006 New Zealand census).
Samoan is the official language; English is used in administration and commerce and is widely spoken.
Mainly Christians (Congregationalists 32 per cent, Roman Catholics 19 per cent, Latter-day Saints 15 per cent, Methodists 14 per cent; 2011 census).
Public spending on health was six per cent of GDP in 2012. Health provision includes the national hospital in Apia, the four district hospitals and the many health centres. Most medical training is undertaken at the Fiji School of Medicine. Patterns of illness and death are shifting to those of a developed country, with longer life expectancy and a rising incidence of lifestyle diseases. Some 99 per cent of the population uses an improved drinking water source and 92 per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities (2012). Infant mortality was 16 per 1,000 live births in 2013 (134 in 1960).
Public spending on education was six per cent of GDP in 2008. There are eight years of compulsory education starting at the age of five. Primary school comprises six years and secondary seven, with cycles of two and five years. The government began to introduce free education in 2009. As well as state schools, there are several faith schools. Some 77 per cent of pupils complete primary school (2010). The school year starts in February.
The principal tertiary institution within the country is the National University of Samoa, which was established in Apia in 1984. Samoa was one of the founders of the regional University of the South Pacific, which has its main campus in Suva, Fiji, and the Alafua Campus in Apia, Samoa, where the university’s Samoa Centre, School of Agriculture and Food Technology, and Institute for Research, Extension and Training in Agriculture are located. The Alafua Campus was established as the university’s agricultural campus in 1977. The USP Samoa Centre relocated from Malifa, where it had been launched in 1976, to the Alafua Campus in 1998. Literacy among people aged 15–24 is 99 per cent (2010).
Samoa Observer and Samoa Times are dailies. Le Samoa (weekly), Savali (fortnightly), and Talamua Magazine (monthly) are in both Samoan and English.
The Samoa Broadcasting Corporation provides public radio and TV services; there are several privately owned radio stations and TV channels.
There are 24 personal computers per 1,000 people (2006).
Country code 685; internet domain ‘.ws’. Samoa has its own analogue mobile phone system. Internet connections are available in Apia and a few other places across the islands.
There are 153 internet users per 1,000 people (2013).
New Year (1–2 January), Mothers’ Day (Monday in May), Independence Day (1 June), Fathers’ Day (Monday in August), Lotu-a-Tamaiti (Monday after White Sunday, in October), Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Religious festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Good Friday and Easter Monday.