Jamaica : Society


Population density (per sq. km): 


Life expectancy: 
74 years
Primary enrolment: 
82% (2010)

2,784,000 (2013); 54 per cent of people live in urban areas; growth 0.7 per cent p.a. 1990–2013 but emigration (principally to the UK, Canada and the USA) has been significant for two generations; birth rate 18 per 1,000 people (35 in 1970); life expectancy 74 years (68 in 1970).

The population is predominantly of African descent (91 per cent in 2001 census), with European-, East Indian- and Chinese-descended minorities, and some people of mixed descent (six per cent).


English; an English-based Creole is widely spoken.


Mainly Christians (Church of God 19 per cent, Seventh Day Adventists 12 per cent, Pentecostals 11 per cent, Baptists seven per cent, Anglicans three per cent, Roman Catholics two per cent), and there is also a significant Rastafarian community (2011 census).


Public spending on health was three per cent of GDP in 2012. There are more than 20 hospitals, mostly public, and many health centres. Hospital services and government medical care are subsidised, patients paying modest fees related to their income. Around nine per cent of the population has private health insurance. Some 93 per cent of the population uses an improved drinking water source and 80 per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities (2012). Infant mortality was 14 per 1,000 live births in 2013 (56 in 1960). In 2013, 1.8 per cent of people aged 15–49 were HIV positive.


Public spending on education was 6.1 per cent of GDP in 2012. There are six years of compulsory education starting at the age of six. Primary school comprises six years and secondary five. Some 95 per cent of pupils complete primary school (2009). The school year starts in September.

The regional University of the West Indies (UWI, established in 1946) has its principal campus at Mona, near Kingston, and other main campuses in Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago. The Norman Manley Law School (1973) is located on the Mona campus of UWI. Some 50 other tertiary institutions – public and private – registered with the University Council of Jamaica in 2011 include the Management Institute for National Development; University of Technology; College of Agriculture, Science and Education; Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts; G. C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sports; Knox Community College; and Northern Caribbean University (owned by the Seventh Day Adventists, located in Mandeville, a university since 1999). The female–male ratio for gross enrolment in tertiary education is 2.30:1 (2009). Literacy among people aged 15–24 is 95 per cent (2010).

In 1974 Jamaica hosted the Sixth Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Kingston. Commonwealth Education Ministers meet every three years to discuss issues of mutual concern and interest.


National dailies are The Gleaner, Jamaica Observer and Daily Star (evenings), and all have weekend editions. Sunday Herald is a weekly.

After the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation was privatised in 1997, many – mostly commercial – radio and TV broadcasters entered the field, including Radio Jamaica and Television Jamaica.

Some 88 per cent of households have TV sets (2011). There are 327 personal computers per 1,000 people (2010).


Country code 1 876; internet domain ‘.jm’. There are internet cafés and kiosks in Kingston; elsewhere internet access is available at libraries and hotels.

For every 1,000 people there are 89 landlines, 1,004 mobile phone subscriptions and 378 internet users (2013).

Public holidays: 

 New Year’s Day, Labour Day (23 May), Emancipation Day (1 August), Independence Day (6 August), National Heroes’ Day (third Monday in October), Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Religious and other festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Easter Monday.