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Vanuatu had about 282,814 inhabitants in 2017, of which only a few are non-native. Approximately two thirds of the population live on the islands of Efate, Santo, Malekula and Tanna and three quarters live in rural areas. A 1989 census revealed that 69 islands were inhabited with 3233 hamlets and villages ranging from one family to villages with more than 200 inhabitants. 52% of the local population lived in towns of 10-49 people, 26% lived in towns of less than 10 people.

On most islands, the population lives along the coastal strip, while the mountainous interior is virtually uninhabited. Population density varies greatly from island to island, depending on size, topography and agricultural capacity. A number of small islands have the densest population density: Atchin and Ifira more than 1000 people per km2(!) while the whole of Vanuatu has a population density of about 23 per km2.

In recent years, more and more young people leave for the larger cities, especially the capital Vila in search of work. As a result, the population of Vila doubled in ten years. The population of Luganville also grew rapidly during this period. Since 1967, the population of Vanuatu has more than tripled. The census taken at that time yielded 77,988 inhabitants. The annual population increase from 1985 to 2014 averaged 2.7% (2017: 1.85%).

The population consists of approximately 97% Melanesians who have genetic links Papuans, Polynesians and Australian aborigines and live on the islands of western Oceania. The people of Melanesian descent have a fairly dark skin colour.

The Polynesians are descendants of the eastern and central Pacific Islands. Most people of Polynesian descent have mixed with people of Melanesian descent over the years. A number of people of Polynesian descent still speak a Polynesian dialect. Many purebred Polynesians still live on the island of Futuna. People of Polynesian descent are generally taller and have a lighter skin colour than people of Melanesian descent.

As in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, there are albinos who have thick, curly, sand-coloured hair with Melanesian features, but white skin.

Most Europeans live in the capital Vila and in Luganville. Missionaries, doctors and development workers are still scattered around the islands, although far fewer than before independence. Until 1980, more French than British lived in Vanuatu. However, most of the French left after independence. Currently, there are also quite a few Australians working in the tourism sector.

The small Asian community is mainly descended from Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants and often owns shops, restaurants and other enterprises.

Vanuatu has the highest birth rate (24 births per 1,000 inhabitants in 2017) in the Pacific and 36% of the population is under the age of 15. The population aged 15-64 is 601% and the number over 65 is 4%. The average life expectancy of men and women is 72.1, years and 75.4 years respectively.


O'Byrne, D. / Vanuatu
Lonely Planet

Stanley, D. / South Pacific Handbook

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info