332,000 (2013); 44 per cent of people live in urban areas; growth 2.5 per cent p.a. 1990–2013; birth rate 23 per 1,000 people (40 in 1970); life expectancy 74 years (66 in 1970).
Belizeans descend from Mayans, Caribs, and the many groups who came as loggers, settlers, refugees, slaves and imported labour: English, Spanish, Africans and East Indians.
According to the 2000 census, the population comprises 49 per cent Mestizos (Maya-Spanish), 25 per cent Creoles (Afro-European), 11 per cent Mayans and six per cent Garifuna (Afro-Carib). There is a small Mennonite farming community who speak a dialect of German, and a fast-growing Chinese community.
English is the official language, but Spanish is spoken by more than half the population, and English-based Creole is widely understood. Other languages are Maya, Garifuna and Ketchi. Most Belizeans are bilingual and many trilingual.
Mainly Christians (Roman Catholics 40 per cent, Pentecostals 8.5 per cent, Seventh Day Adventists 5.5 per cent, Anglicans five per cent, Mennonites, Baptists, Methodists); there are small minorities of Baha’i, Muslims and Jews (2010 census).
Public spending on health was four per cent of GDP in 2012. There are government hospitals in Belize City, Belmopan and other main towns, and health-care centres and mobile clinics in rural areas. Malaria requires constant surveillance. The National Primary Healthcare Centre organises preventive programmes. Some 99 per cent of the population uses an improved drinking water source and 91 per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities (2012). Infant mortality was 14 per 1,000 live births in 2013 (74 in 1960). In 2013, 1.5 per cent of people aged 15–49 were HIV positive.
Public spending on education was 6.6 per cent of GDP in 2010. There are ten years of compulsory education starting at the age of five. Primary school, which is free of charge, comprises six years and secondary six. Some 91 per cent of pupils complete primary school (2010). The school year starts in September.
The University of Belize opened in 1986. Belize also shares in the regional University of the West Indies, which has its main campuses in Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Galen University at San Ignacio is a private university partnered with the University of Indianapolis in the USA. The female–male ratio for gross enrolment in tertiary education is 1.60:1 (2011).
Weekly newspapers include Amandala (biweekly), The Belize Times (People’s United Party), The Guardian (United Democratic Party), The Reporter and The San Pedro Sun (published on the island of Ambergris Caye).
Radio stations and TV channels are all privately owned; one radio station is broadcast in Spanish, one is affiliated to the United Democratic Party, another to the People’s United Party.
There are 280 personal computers per 1,000 people (2013).
Country code 501; internet domain ‘.bz’. Mobile phone coverage is good in most areas, especially on the coast and along the main routes to Mexico and Guatemala.
For every 1,000 people there are 72 landlines, 529 mobile phone subscriptions and 317 internet users (2013).
New Year’s Day, Baron Bliss Day (9 March), Labour Day (1 May), Commonwealth Day (24 May), St George’s Caye Day (10 September), Independence Day (21 September), Pan-American Day (12 October), Garifuna Settlement Day (19 November), Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Religious and other festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Carnival (week before Lent), Good Friday and Easter Monday.