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Demographics of Nauru

Updated: 2017-09-08T14:36Z
Demographics of Nauru
Population of Nauru.svg
Scatter plot of the population of Nauru, 1886–2011
Population10,084 (2011)
Density478 / sq km. (2011)
185 / sq mi.
Growth rate0.19% (2002–11)
Birth rate27.20 (2007–11)
Death rate7.50 (2007–11)
Life expectancy59.7 (2011)
 • male56.8 (2011)
 • female62.7 (2011)
Fertility rate3.70 (2009–11)
Infant mortality rate44.0 (2011)
Net migration rate84 (2009)
Age structure
0–14 years32.5% (2014 est.)
15–64 years65.6% (2014 est.)
65 and over1.8% (2014 est.)
Sex ratio
Total0.91 males/female (2014 est.)
At birth0.84 males/female (2014 est.)
Under 150.79 males/female (2014 est.)
15–64 years1.00 males/female (2014 est.)
65 and over0.78 males/female (2014 est.)
Nationalitynoun Nauruan(s), adj. Nauruan
Major ethnicNauruan (93.6%)
Minor ethnicChinese (1.5%), I-Kiribati (1.8%)

The demographics of Nauru, an island country in the Pacific Ocean, are known through national censuses, which have been analysed by various statistical bureaus since the 1920s. The Nauru Bureau of Statistics have conducted this task since 1977—the first census since Nauru gained independence in 1968. The most recent census of Nauru was in 2011, when population had reached ten thousand. The population density is 478 inhabitants per square kilometre (185 per square mile), and the overall life expectancy is 59.7 years. The population rose steadily from the 1960s until 2006 when the Government of Nauru repatriated thousands of Tuvaluan and I-Kiribati workers from the country. Since 1992, Nauru's birth rate has exceeded its death rate; the natural growth rate is positive. In terms of age structure, the population is dominated by the 15–64-year-old segment (65.6%). The median age of the population is 21.5, and the estimated gender ratio of the population is 0.91 males per one female.

Nauru is inhabited mostly by Nauruans (93.6%), while minorities include I-Kiribati (1.8%), Chinese (1.5%) and other (3.1%). The demographic history of Nauru is marked by several migrations: the area was first inhabited by Micronesian people about 3,000 years ago. The first European to find the island was John Fearn in 1798. Then, the country was annexed by Germany in the 1888. The next was when Japanese occupied the island during World War II in the 1942. During this time, the Japanese deported several thousands of Nauruans to other islands. In the 1960s, the country gained independence, where the percentage of Nauruans started to increase. The most recent demographic switch was in the 2000s, when the government repatriated several non-Nauruan population from the country.

The Nauruan language is the official language of Nauru, but English is often used in the country. Nauruan is declared as the primary language of 95.3% of the population. The 2011 census revealed that 66.0% of the population spoke English and 11.9% another language. The main religions of Nauru are Nauru Congregational Church (35.71%) and Roman Catholic (32.96%). The literacy rate in Nauru is 96.5%. The proportion of the country's population aged 15 and over attaining academic degrees is one of the lowest in the world, reaching 7.9% in 2011. An estimated 10.7% of the gross domestic product (GDP) is spent on education. Nauru has a universal health care system, and in 2012, an estimated 7.5% of its GDP was spent on healthcare. Nauru has the highest obesity ranking in the world; 97 per cent of men and 93 per cent of women are obese. In 2006, the average net monthly income was A$2,597 (A$2905 in 2014). The most significant sources of employment are phosphate mining, banking industries, and various coconut products. In 2011, the unemployment rate was 23%. The 2011 census enumerated 1,647 total households, averaging 6.0 persons per house. Average urbanisation rate in Nauru is 100%.


Historical population of Nauru
YearPop.±% p.a.
1 Estimate
Source: The Centre for Independent Studies,[1] Nauru Bureau of Statistics[2]

With a population of ten thousand in 2011, Nauru ranks around 230th in the world by population.[3] Its population density is 478 inhabitants per square kilometre (185 per square mile). The overall life expectancy in Nauru at birth is 59.7 years. The total fertility rate of 3.70 children per mother is one of the highest in the Oceania. Future estimates are indifferent; the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook estimated the population of Nauru would decrease to approximately 9,400 in 2014,[4] the United Nations projects the population will stay around 10,000 in the 2020s,[5] and the Nauru Bureau of Statistics estimates the population will increase to 20,000 in 2038.[6]

In Nauru's history, there have been six major demographics changes. The island was first inhabited by Micronesian people roughly 3,000 years ago.[7] The first European to find the island was John Fearn in 1798. In 1888, the country was annexed by Germany. The next demographic change came when Japanese occupied the island during World War II in the 1940s.[8] During this time, the Japanese deported several thousands of Nauruans to other islands.[9] The next major demographic change was in the 1960s; the country gained independence, where the percentage of Nauruans started to increase.[10] The last major demographics change was in 2006 when the Government of Nauru repatriated almost all of the remaining Tuvaluan and I-Kiribati workers, following large scale reduction from the Republic of Nauru Phosphate Corporation (RONPhos) and government workers.[11] The census of 2006 stated 9,233 people were in Nauru: down 2.13% per year from the previous census of 2002.[2]

From 2002–11, there has been negative net migration, with an annual negative 109 net immigrants from 2006–11.[12] In 2009 there were 1,820 arrivals and 1,736 departures, for a positive rate of 84 immigrants. This was the first time since collecting data in 2002, there was a positive rate.[3] Data on arrivals and departures collected by the Nauruan Customs and Immigration Office is not available, so specific immigration data is unavailable.[13] As of the 2011 census, 57% of the population over 15 years old were legally or de facto married, 35% were never married, while 7% were either widowed, separated, or divorced.[14] There are 1,647 households in Nauru, making an average household size of 6.0 persons per household.[15]

Vital statistics

For births, deaths, and fertility rates, the Nauru Bureau of Statistics was used.[16][17][18] For population, the United States Census Bureau's mid-year estimated were used.[19] If a cell is shaded light green and a daggerdagger stands beside a number, it indicates the estimate from The World Factbook.[20] In 2013, the number of births (366) and birth rate (38.8) was the second-highest during this period. In 2011, the total fertility rate of 4.2 was the highest since 1992 (4.5). Since 2009, there has been a natural change of at least 200 inhabitants—the first since the reparations of the population in 2006.

Vital statistics of Nauru, 1992–2013
YearPopulationBirthsDeathsChangeBirth rateDeath rateC. ChangeTFR

Ethnic groups

Nauru, as of 2011, is mainly inhabited by Nauruans (94%), while the main minority groups include Fijians (1%), Chinese (1%), and Solomon Islanders (1%). This shows a major change from the previous major census of 2002, when Nauruans represented 75% of the population.[21] According to the Constitution of Nauru does not exclude any ethnic group to become a citizen.[22]

Ethnic group201120062002
Number %Number %Number %
Source: Nauru Bureau of Statistics[21][23]


The Nauruan language is the official language of Nauru. English is widely understood and is used for most government and commercial purposes.[4] According to the 2011 census, 95.3% of the population speaks Nauruan, 66.0% speak English, and 11.9% speak another language.[15] Nauruan is an Austronesian language, however, no adequate written grammar of the language has been compiled, and its relationships to other Micronesian languages are not well understood.[24]


Religion in Nauru, 2011[25]
Nauru Congregational
Roman Catholic
Assemblies of God
Nauru Independent Church
Other or not stated

The main religions in Nauru are Nauru Congregational (35.71%), Roman Catholic (32.96%), Assemblies of God (12.98%), and Nauru Independent (9.50%). The biggest changes from 2002–11 were an increase from 0 to 1,291 (Assemblies of God) and 1,417 to 282 (Other).[25] Public holidays include New Year's Day (1 January), Independence Day (31 January), Good Friday, Easter Monday, Easter Tuesday, Constitution Day (17 May), National Youth Day (25 September), Christmas Day, and Boxer Day.[26]

Nauruan Independent was the predominant religion in Nauru before the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when foreign missionaries introduced Christianity to the island. It is still practised by 9.5% of the population, according to 2011 census. There are a few active Christian missionary organisations, including representatives of Anglicanism, Methodism, and Catholicism. The Constitution provides for freedom of religion;[22] however, the Government restricted this right in some circumstances. The government has restricted the religious practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Jehovah's Witnesses, most of whom are foreign workers employed by RONPhos.[27]


A Nauruan secondary school, 2010

Literacy rate in Nauru, defined as "people who are currently enrolled in school and/or have reached at least grade 5 of primary education",[28] is 96.5%, as of 2011.[15] There are 3,190 students and 104 teachers, as of 2013.[29] The 2011 census stated 4 percent of the population aged 15 years or older have a primary education, 91 percent have a secondary education, and 5 percent have a tertiary education.[15] Education is based on the British system, which requires attendance from 5 to 16 years old. Students spend three years at preschool, six years of primary education, and four years of secondary school. Tertiary school is not required.[30] An estimated 10.7 percent of the GDP was spend on education in 1999.[31] As of 2013, there are five preschools, four primary schools, three secondary schools, and one tertiary school.[29] The lone college, University of South Pacific, opened in the 1970s via distance courses, and in 1987 a campus was built on the island. It offers accounting, management, primary education, and English studies as majors.[32]

The education system had a near-collapse in 2000–2005. During this time, exams were not held, teachers were not paid, and schools did not have enough funding to continue.[30] As a result, over half of the schools closed.[29] In 2009, the Australian Government partnered with the Nauruan Department of Education to help. This agreement resulted in a 5.7% increase in students, teachers with a degree increased from 30% to 93%, and over A$11 million was used to construct a new secondary school.[33]


Nauru has a universal health care system, which is provided to all citizens for free.[34] There is a single hospital, the Republic of Nauru Hospital in Yaren. It offers basic medical and surgical care, along with radiological, laboratory, pharmacy, and dental services. The Nauru Public Health Centre offers treatments for diabetes and other obesity-related diseases. This is the only form of specialized medical care in Nauru. Patients who require higher treatment are flown to Australia.[35][36] In 2012, an estimated 7.5% of its GDP was spent on healthcare.[37] As of 2010, there are 50 hospital beds.[38] In 2004, there were 149 physicians and 557 nurses per 100,000 people.[39] In 2012, it was estimated 26.2% and 22.1% of the population under 15 years of age consumed tobacco and cigarettes, respectively.[40] The World Factbook estimates the population has a life expectancy of 66.4 years at birth, which ranks Nauru 169th in the world.[4]

In 2013, there were 366 live births: 193 male and 173 female.[16] The average age of mothers at first birth, as of a 2007 estimate, was 22.1 years.[4] General fertility rate, i.e. numbers of births per 1,000 women aged 15–49 is 105.[15] In 2011, 75 people died in Nauru.[17] Cardiovascular disease (44%) and cancer (10%) were the primary causes of deaths in 2002.[41] In the 2007–11 period, the birth rate was 27.2, exceeding the death rate of 7.5.[15] The estimated infant mortality rate was 8.21 deaths per live births in 2014. In terms of age structure, the population of Nauru is dominated by the 15–64 rate (65.6%), while the size of the population younger than 15 and older than 64 is relatively small (32.5% and 1.8% respectively). The median age of the population is 21.5. The sex ratio of the population is 0.91 males per 1 female.[4] Nauru has the highest obesity ranking in the world, 97 per cent of men and 93 per cent of women are obese.[42] In 2011, the average body mass index was around 34.5, which is greater than obese (30+). According to The Independent the main reason for the obesity is result of the importation of Western foods.[43]

Economic indicators

Phosphate exports (in millions of tonnes) in Nauru from 1968–2001.

Net monthly income in 2006 averaged A$2,597 (A$2,905 in 2014[44]). In the same year, gross monthly income averaged A$9,554 (A$10,685 in 2014[44]). This was calculated during the mini-census of 2006, which featured 54.4% response rate of the population.[45] The income was calculated using the following factors: first job salary, subsistence, other business income, second job salary, services to other households, benefits, house gifts consumed and received, and other income.[46] Compared to other countries that use the Australian dollar—Kiribati, Australia, and Tuvalu—Nauru ranks number one in terms of income.[A] Since 2013, Nauru does not have a minimum wage.[47]

Nauru's number of employed people has steadily risen and fallen. According to the 2011 census, there are 908 employed persons and 2,883 unemployed persons, making an unemployment rate of 23%.[3] The Nauru Bureau of Statistics predicted the unemployment rate will decrease to 22% in FY2014/15.[48] The gross domestic product of Nauru was A$69.55 million in 2009, an increase of 40% increase from 2008. The GDP is broken down into three categories: primary (18.7%—agriculture, hunting, forestry, fishing, mining, and quarrying), secondary (36.5%—manufacturing, electric, gas, water, and construction), and tertiary (44.8%—trade, hotel, restaurants, and various services) industries.[49]

A majority of the population are employed in phosphate mining, public administration, education, and transportation.[4] A detention centre was closed in 2008, which caused the unemployment rate to rise to 30%, and approximately ten percent of the population relied on working at the centre.[50] The centre reopened in 2012[51] and currently serves 1,162 prisoners, as of May 2014.[52] During the 1990s, Nauru was famous for operating offshore banks, helping with money laundering. The United States State Department's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report estimated there were 400 offshore finance centres laundering an estimated $70 billion.[53]

Phosphate mining in Nauru originally made Nauru the richest per capita nation in the world.[54] In 1968, the Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust (NPRT) was created to invest profits from mining, so Nauru would have money after the mining was exhausted.[55] The owners of the trust purchased a fleet of ships and aircraft, a brewery in the Solomon Islands, hotels around the world, and real estate in Australia, the United States and Britain, which causes the trust to bankrupt.[56] Phosphate exports peaked in 1973 with 2.3 million tonnes, but has decreased to 0.2 million tonnes in 2001.[57] In 2006, mining of a secondary layer of phosphate began.[58]


^A For Kiribati, the average annual income was reported as A$8,745, which was divided by 12 months to receive a monthly income.[59] For Australia, the minimum (A$400) and maximum (A$599) average income was taken from the 2006 census and divided by two to receive the average weekly income; this amount was multiplied by 4.33 to receive the monthly income.[60] For Tuvalu, the 2005 monthly income was used with an inflation calculator to provide the 2006 value.[61]


  1. ^ Hughes 2004, p. 2
  2. ^ a b Nauru Bureau of Statistics 2011, p. 7
  3. ^ a b c "Nauru Stats at a Glance". Nauru Bureau of Statistics. Archived from the original on 1 August 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Nauru". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 20 June 2014. Archived from the original on 1 August 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "Population". World Population Prospectus. United Nations. 2012. Archived from the original on 6 August 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
  6. ^ Nauru Bureau of Statistics 2011, p. 164
  7. ^ First National Report to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD): Nauru (PDF) (Report). United Nations. 2003. p. 11. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  8. ^ Shenon, Philip (10 December 1995). "A Pacific Island Nation is Stripped of Everything". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 6 August 2014. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
  9. ^ Bogart, Charles (2008). "Death Off Nauru" (PDF). The CDS Newsletter. The Coast Defense Study Group. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  10. ^ Davidson, JW (2008). "The Republic of Nauru". The Journal of Pacific History. 3 (1): 145–150. doi:10.1080/00223346808572131. 
  11. ^ Asian Development Bank (2007). Country Economic Report: Nauru (PDF) (Report). Asian Development Bank. pp. 2–3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  12. ^ Nauru Bureau of Statistics 2011, p. 50
  13. ^ Nauru Bureau of Statistics 2011, p. 48
  14. ^ Nauru Bureau of Statistics 2011, p. 52
  15. ^ a b c d e f "Population Census of 2011". Nauru Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  16. ^ a b "Vital Statistics – Births/Fertility". Nauru Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  17. ^ a b "Vital Statistics – Deaths/Mortality". Nauru Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  18. ^ Nauru Bureau of Statistics 2002, p. 94
  19. ^ "Midyear Population and Density – Custom Region – Nauru". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 25 July 2014. 
  20. ^ "Nauru – 2014, CIA World Factbook". Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  21. ^ a b Nauru Bureau of Statistics 2011, p. 83
  22. ^ a b "Constitution of Nauru". Nauru Government. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  23. ^ Nauru Bureau of Statistics 2007, p. 18
  24. ^ Foster, Sophie (18 November 2013). "Nauru". Encyclopædia Britannica. p. 1. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  25. ^ a b "Australia-Oceania :: NAURU". CIA The World Factbook. 
  26. ^ "Nauru Country Profile". United Nations. Archived from the original on 27 July 2013. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  27. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report 2007". United States Department of State. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  28. ^ Nauru Bureau of Statistics 2011, p. 74
  29. ^ a b c "Education Statistics". Nauru Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  30. ^ a b "Education System". International Council for Open and Distance Education. Archived from the original on 8 December 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  31. ^ "Nauru Report". UNESCO. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  32. ^ "USP Nauru Campus". University of South Pacific. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  33. ^ "Nauru: Education Support". Australian Government. Archived from the original on 23 February 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  34. ^ Kiste, Robert (18 November 2013). "Nauru". Encyclopædia Britannica. p. 2. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  35. ^
  36. ^ Boslaugh, Sarah E: Health Care Systems Around the World: A Comparative Guide, p. 332
  37. ^ "WHO Western Pacific Region: Nauru Statistics Summary (2002–present)". World Health Organization. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  38. ^ "WHO Western Pacific Region: Nauru Statistics Summary (2002 – present)". World Health Organization. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  39. ^ "Nauru". Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  40. ^ "Country Profile: Nauru" (PDF). WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2013. World Health Organization. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  41. ^ World Health Organization (2002). "The Impact of Chronic Disease in Nauru" (PDF). World Health Organization. p. 1. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  42. ^ Marks, Kathy (26 December 2010). "Fat of the Land: Nauru Tops Obesity League". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  43. ^ Laurance, Jeremy (4 February 2011). "How Tiny Nauru Became World's Fattest Nation". The Independent. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  44. ^ a b Australian Consumer Price Inflation figures follow the Long Term Linked Series provided in Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011) 6461.0 – Consumer Price Index: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2011 as explained at §§3.10–3.11; this series comprises "from 1901 to 1914, the A Series Retail Price Index; from 1914 to 1946–47, the C Series Retail Price Index; from 1946-47 to 1948-49, a combination of the C Series Index, excluding rent, and the housing group of the CPI; and from 1948–49 onwards, the CPI." (3.10). Retrieved May 4, 2015
  45. ^ Nauru Bureau of Statistics 2007, pp. 8–10
  46. ^ Nauru Bureau of Statistics 2007, p. 8
  47. ^ "Nauru 2013 Human Rights Report" (PDF). United States Department of State. p. 13. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  48. ^ "Labour Force Projects 2014/15". Nauru Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  49. ^ "Table 2.1 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by Economic Activity in Current Prices". Nauru Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  50. ^ La Canna, Xavier (7 February 2008). "Nauru 'Hit' by Detention Centre Closing". The Age. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  51. ^ "Nauru: Economy". The Commonwealth. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  52. ^ "Fact Sheet: Operational Update 23 May 2014". Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. 23 May 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  53. ^ Seneviratne, Kalinga (29 June 2000). "Pressure on Pacific to Stop Money-Laundering". Asia Times Online. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  54. ^ Squires, Nick (15 March 2008). "Nauru Seeks to Regain Lost Fortunes". BBC News. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  55. ^ Seneviratne, Kalinga (26 May 1999). "Nauru Turns to Dust". Asia Times Online. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  56. ^ Robinson, Natasha (25 October 2010). "Resurgence in Sight but Nauru Remains 'A Sitting Duck'". The Australian. Retrieved 21 July 2014. 
  57. ^ Hughes 2004, p. 4
  58. ^ "Nauru". New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 9 December 2013. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  59. ^ Tiroa, Tekena (2006). Analytical Report on the 2006 Kiribati HIES (PDF) (Report). National Statistics Office Kiribati. p. 15. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  60. ^ "Census Provides an Updated Picture of the Average Australian". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 27 June 2007. Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  61. ^ Tuvalu Government (2005). Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HEIS) 2004/2005 (PDF) (Report). Tuvalu Government. p. 35. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 


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