Kiribati : Society


Population density (per sq. km): 


Life expectancy: 
69 years

102,000 (2013); the Phoenix Islands and central and southern Line Islands are mostly uninhabited; 44 per cent of people live in urban areas; growth 1.6 per cent p.a. 1990–2013; birth rate 23 per 1,000 people (41 in 1970); life expectancy 69 years (49 in 1970).

The government’s resettlement programme, which began in 1989, aimed to transfer almost 5,000 people from the densely populated western atolls to the Line and Phoenix Islands. Five of the Phoenix Islands were designated for residential development in 1995, especially for people from the overcrowded island of South Tarawa.

The people are mostly of Micronesian origin (98.8 per cent in 2000 census). There are also Polynesian and European-descended minorities.


 I-Kiribati is the national language, English the official language though not generally used outside the capital.


Mainly Christians (Roman Catholics 55 per cent, Protestants 36 per cent, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists; 2005 census). There is a small Baha’i minority.


Public spending on health was nine per cent of GDP in 2012. Infant mortality was 45 per 1,000 live births in 2013. Tuberculosis is a serious public health problem; there are regular outbreaks of dengue fever and occasional cases of leprosy and typhoid. Some 67 per cent of the population uses an improved drinking water source and 40 per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities (2012).


There are nine years of compulsory education starting at the age of six. Primary school comprises six years and secondary six, with two cycles each of three years. The school year starts in January.

Three organisations run by the Ministry of Labour and Human Resource Development offer vocational training: the Institute of Technology (established in 1970) in technical and administrative skills; the Fisheries Training Centre (1989) in maritime, fishing and language skills, for those who seek employment on Japanese fishing vessels; and the Marine Training Centre in merchant maritime skills. A training college for primary teachers and an extra-mural centre of the University of the South Pacific are located at Tarawa. Kiribati is a partner in the regional University of the South Pacific, which has its main campus in Suva, Fiji, and a campus in Tarawa, Kiribati, with some 3,000 students, enrolled for a wide range of courses using the university’s distance-learning facilities.


Te Uekera is a weekly newspaper mainly in I-Kiribati, but with main news items also in English. Kiribati Newstar is an independent weekly. The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches publish newsletters. Radio Kiribati provides a public service. There is no national television service.


Country code 686; internet domain ‘.ki’. Radio telephone is used to call the outer islands. Internet connection is available on some of the islands. The main post office is in Bairiki, with branches in Betio, Bikenibeu and the outer islands, including Kiritimati.

For every 1,000 people there are 88 landlines, 166 mobile phone subscriptions and 115 internet users (2013).

Public holidays: 

New Year’s Day, Women’s Day (8 March), Health Day (18 April), Independence (usually several days around 12 July), Youth Day (7 August), Human Rights Day (11 December), Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The Independence celebrations continue for three days.

Religious festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Good Friday and Easter Monday.