253,000 (2013); concentrated near the coast on the four main islands; 26 per cent of people live in urban areas – Efaté has the fastest-growing population, as people migrate to the capital; growth 2.4 per cent p.a. 1990–2013; birth rate 27 per 1,000 people (43 in 1970); life expectancy 72 years (53 in 1970).
Most of the population is Melanesian, known as ni-Vanuatu (98.5 per cent in the 1999 census), the rest of mixed Micronesian, Polynesian and European descent.
The national language is Bislama; English and French are widely spoken and also official languages. There are more than 100 Melanesian languages and dialects.
Mainly Christians (Presbyterians 28 per cent, Anglicans 15 per cent, Seventh Day Adventists 13 per cent and Roman Catholics 12 per cent; 2009 census).
Public spending on health was three per cent of GDP in 2012. The major hospitals are in Port Vila and Luganville, with health centres and dispensaries throughout the country. Some 91 per cent of the population uses an improved drinking water source and 58 per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities (2012). Malaria is widespread. Infant mortality was 15 per 1,000 live births in 2013 (141 in 1960).
Public spending on education was seven per cent of GDP in 2008. Primary education, in French or English, is provided free of charge (with effect from 2010). Primary school comprises six years and secondary seven, with cycles of four and three years. Some 71 per cent of pupils complete primary school (2008). The school year starts in February.
Vanuatu is a partner in the regional University of the South Pacific, which has its main campus in Suva, Fiji, and a campus, the Emalus Campus, in Port Vila, Vanuatu, where 700–1,000 students per semester are enrolled for certificate, diploma, degree and postgraduate courses, using the university’s distance-learning facilities. The university’s law school and teaching programmes in Pacific languages and early childhood education are based at the Emalus Campus.
Institutions offering tertiary education include the Institute of Technology, which offers courses in business and technical education; Institute of Teacher Education; and College of Nursing Education, all of which are located in Port Vila. Literacy among people aged 15–24 is 94 per cent (2010).
Vanuatu Weekly is published by the government in Bislama, French and English. Independent newspapers include Vanuatu Daily Post, and the weeklies L’Hebdo du Vanuatu, Nasara, Ni-Vanuatu, Port Vila Presse and The Vanuatu Independent.
The Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation provides public TV and radio services, broadcasting in Bislama, French and English, and there are some private commercial and faith radio stations.
Some 37 per cent of households have TV sets (2009). There are 14 personal computers per 1,000 people (2005).
Country code 678; internet domain ‘.vu’. There are public phones in post offices. Mobile coverage is generally good. Port Vila and Luganville have several internet cafés, and internet access is provided by some post offices.
For every 1,000 people there are 20 landlines, 593 mobile phone subscriptions and 113 internet users (2013).
New Year’s Day, Father Walter Lini Day (21 February), Chief’s Day (5 March), Labour Day (1 May), Children’s Day (24 July), Independence Day (30 July), Assumption (15 August), Constitution Day (5 October), Unity Day (29 November), Christmas Day and Family Day (26 December).
Religious festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Good Friday, Easter Monday and Ascension Day.