Australia - Oceania :: Palau
  • Introduction :: Palau
  • Background:
    After three decades as part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific under US administration, this westernmost cluster of the Caroline Islands opted for independence in 1978 rather than join the Federated States of Micronesia. A Compact of Free Association with the US was approved in 1986 but not ratified until 1993. It entered into force the following year when the islands gained independence.
  • Geography :: Palau
  • Location:
    Oceania, group of islands in the North Pacific Ocean, southeast of the Philippines
    Geographic coordinates:
    7 30 N, 134 30 E
    Map references:
    total: 459 sq km
    land: 459 sq km
    water: 0 sq km
    country comparison to the world: 198
    Area - comparative:
    slightly more than 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC
    Area comparison map: Area comparison map
    Land boundaries:
    0 km
    1,519 km
    Maritime claims:
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
    contiguous zone: 24 nm
    continental shelf: 200 nm
    tropical; hot and humid; wet season May to November
    varying topography from the high, mountainous main island of Babelthuap to low, coral islands usually fringed by large barrier reefs
    lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
    highest point: Mount Ngerchelchuus 242 m
    Natural resources:
    forests, minerals (especially gold), marine products, deep-seabed minerals
    Land use:
    agricultural land: 10.8% (2011 est.)
    arable land: 2.2% (2011 est.) / permanent crops: 4.3% (2011 est.) / permanent pasture: 4.3% (2011 est.)
    forest: 87.6% (2011 est.)
    other: 1.6% (2011 est.)
    Irrigated land:
    0 sq km (2012)
    Population distribution:
    most of the population is located on the southern end of the main island of Babelthuap
    Natural hazards:
    typhoons (June to December)
    Environment - current issues:
    inadequate facilities for disposal of solid waste; threats to the marine ecosystem from sand and coral dredging, illegal and destructive fishing practices, and overfishing; climate change contributes to rising sea level and coral bleaching; drought
    Environment - international agreements:
    party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling
    signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
    Geography - note:
    westernmost archipelago in the Caroline chain, consists of six island groups totaling more than 300 islands; includes World War II battleground of Beliliou (Peleliu) and world-famous Rock Islands
  • People and Society :: Palau
  • Population:
    21,685 (July 2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 219
    noun: Palauan(s)
    adjective: Palauan
    Ethnic groups:
    Palauan (Micronesian with Malayan and Melanesian admixtures) 73%, Carolinian 2%, Asian 21.7%, caucasian 1.2%, other 2.1% (2015 est.)
    Palauan (official on most islands) 65.2%, other Micronesian 1.9%, English (official) 19.1%, Filipino 9.9%, Chinese 1.2%, other 2.8% (2015 est.)

    note: Sonsoralese is official in Sonsoral; Tobian is official in Tobi; Angaur and Japanese are official in Angaur

    Roman Catholic 45.3%, Protestant 34.9% (includes Evangelical 26.4%, Seventh Day Adventist 6.9%, Assembly of God .9%, Baptist .7%), Modekngei 5.7% (indigenous to Palau), Muslim 3%, Mormon 1.5%, other 9.7% (2015 est.)
    Age structure:
    0-14 years: 18.68% (male 2,090/female 1,961)
    15-24 years: 15.86% (male 1,723/female 1,716)
    25-54 years: 45.33% (male 6,026/female 3,804)
    55-64 years: 10.68% (male 853/female 1,463)
    65 years and over: 9.45% (male 501/female 1,548) (2020 est.)
    population pyramid: population pyramid
    Median age:
    total: 33.9 years
    male: 32.9 years
    female: 35.9 years (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 94
    Population growth rate:
    0.39% (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 163
    Birth rate:
    11.3 births/1,000 population (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 174
    Death rate:
    8.3 deaths/1,000 population (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 80
    Net migration rate:
    0.9 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 62
    Population distribution:
    most of the population is located on the southern end of the main island of Babelthuap
    urban population: 81% of total population (2020)
    rate of urbanization: 1.77% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
    Major urban areas - population:
    277 NGERULMUD (capital) (2018)
    Sex ratio:
    at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
    0-14 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
    15-24 years: 1 male(s)/female
    25-54 years: 1.58 male(s)/female
    55-64 years: 0.58 male(s)/female
    65 years and over: 0.32 male(s)/female
    total population: 1.07 male(s)/female (2020 est.)
    Infant mortality rate:
    total: 9.8 deaths/1,000 live births
    male: 11.2 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 8.3 deaths/1,000 live births (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 133
    Life expectancy at birth:
    total population: 74.1 years
    male: 70.9 years
    female: 77.5 years (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 136
    Total fertility rate:
    1.7 children born/woman (2020 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 173
    Drinking water source:
    improved: urban: 100% of population
    rural: 100% of population
    total: 100% of population
    unimproved: urban: 0% of population
    rural: 0% of population
    total: 0% of population (2017 est.)
    Current Health Expenditure:
    12% (2017)
    Physicians density:
    1.42 physicians/1,000 population (2014)
    Hospital bed density:
    4.8 beds/1,000 population (2010)
    Sanitation facility access:
    improved: urban: 100% of population (2015 est.)
    rural: 100% of population (2015 est.)
    total: 100% of population (2015 est.)
    unimproved: urban: 0% of population (2015 est.)
    rural: 0% of population (2015 est.)
    total: 0% of population (2015 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
    HIV/AIDS - deaths:
    Major infectious diseases:
    degree of risk: high (2020)
    food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea
    vectorborne diseases: malaria
    Obesity - adult prevalence rate:
    55.3% (2016)
    country comparison to the world: 3
    Education expenditures:
    definition: age 15 and over can read and write
    total population: 96.6%
    male: 96.8%
    female: 96.3% (2015)
    School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
    total: 17 years
    male: 16 years
    female: 18 years (2013)
    Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:
    country comparison to the world: 162
  • Government :: Palau
  • Country name:
    conventional long form: Republic of Palau
    conventional short form: Palau
    local long form: Beluu er a Belau
    local short form: Belau
    former: Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, Palau District
    etymology: from the Palauan name for the islands, Belau, which likely derives from the Palauan word "beluu" meaning "village"
    Government type:
    presidential republic in free association with the US
    name: Ngerulmud
    geographic coordinates: 7 30 N, 134 37 E
    time difference: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
    etymology: the Palauan meaning is "place of fermented 'mud'" ('mud' being the native name for the keyhole angelfish); the site of the new capitol (established in 2006) had been a large hill overlooking the ocean, Ngerulmud, on which women would communally gather to offer fermented angelfish to the gods

    note: Ngerulmud, on Babeldaob Island, is the smallest national capital on earth by population, with only a few hundred people; the name is pronounced en-jer-al-mud; Koror, on Koror Island, with over 11,000 residents is by far the largest settlement in Palau; it served as the country's capital from independence in 1994 to 2006
    Administrative divisions:
    16 states; Aimeliik, Airai, Angaur, Hatohobei, Kayangel, Koror, Melekeok, Ngaraard, Ngarchelong, Ngardmau, Ngatpang, Ngchesar, Ngeremlengui, Ngiwal, Peleliu, Sonsorol
    1 October 1994 (from the US-administered UN trusteeship)
    National holiday:
    Constitution Day, 9 July (1981), day of a national referendum to pass the new constitution; Independence Day, 1 October (1994)
    history: ratified 9 July 1980, effective 1 January 1981
    amendments: proposed by a constitutional convention (held at least once every 15 years with voter approval), by public petition of at least 25% of eligible voters, or by a resolution adopted by at least three fourths of National Congress members; passage requires approval by a majority of votes in at least three fourths of the states in the next regular general election; amended 1992, 2004, 2008
    International law organization participation:
    has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
    citizenship by birth: no
    citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Palau
    dual citizenship recognized: no
    residency requirement for naturalization: note - no procedure for naturalization
    18 years of age; universal
    Executive branch:
    chief of state: President Tommy REMENGESAU (since 17 January 2013); Vice President Raynold OILUCH (since 19 January 2017); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
    head of government: President Tommy REMENGESAU (since 17 January 2013); Vice President Raynold OILUCH (since 19 January 2017)
    cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate; also includes the vice president; the Council of Chiefs consists of chiefs from each of the states who advise the president on issues concerning traditional laws, customs, and their relationship to the constitution and laws of Palau
    elections/appointments: president and vice president directly elected on separate ballots by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 4-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 1 November 2016 (next to be held in November 2020)
    election results: Tommy REMENGESAU reelected president; percent of vote - Tommy REMENGESAU (independent) 51.3%, Surangel WHIPPS, Jr.(independent) 48.7%; Raynold OILUCH elected vice president
    Legislative branch:
    description: bicameral National Congress or Olbiil Era Kelulau consists of:
    Senate (13 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by majority vote to serve 4-year terms)
    House of Delegates (16 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 4-year terms)
    Senate - last held on 1 November 2016 (next to be held in November 2020)
    House of Delegates - last held on 1 November 2016 (next to be held in November 2020)
    election results:
    Senate - percent of vote - NA; seats - independent 13; composition - men 11, women 2, percent of women 15.4%
    House of Delegates - percent of vote - NA; seats - independent 16; composition - men 14, women 2, percent of women 12.5%; note - total National Congress percent of women 13.8%
    Judicial branch:
    highest courts: Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice and 3 associate justices organized into appellate trial divisions; the Supreme Court organization also includes the Common Pleas and Land Courts)
    judge selection and term of office: justices nominated by a 7-member independent body consisting of judges, presidential appointees, and lawyers and appointed by the president; judges can serve until mandatory retirement at age 65
    subordinate courts: National Court and other 'inferior' courts
    Political parties and leaders:
    International organization participation:
    Diplomatic representation in the US:
    Ambassador Hersey KYOTA (since 12 November 1997)
    chancery: 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20036
    telephone: [1] (202) 452-6814
    FAX: [1] (202) 452-6281
    consulate(s): Tamuning (Guam)
    Diplomatic representation from the US:
    chief of mission: Ambassador Amy HYATT (since 9 March 2015)
    telephone: [680] 587-2920
    embassy: Omsangel/Beklelachieb, Airai, Palau 96940
    mailing address: P. O. Box 6028, Koror, Republic of Palau 96940
    FAX: [680] 587-2911
    Flag description:
    light blue with a large yellow disk shifted slightly to the hoist side; the blue color represents the ocean, the disk represents the moon; Palauans consider the full moon to be the optimum time for human activity; it is also considered a symbol of peace, love, and tranquility
    National symbol(s):
    bai (native meeting house); national colors: blue, yellow
    National anthem:
    name: "Belau rekid" (Our Palau)
    lyrics/music: multiple/Ymesei O. EZEKIEL

    note: adopted 1980

  • Economy :: Palau
  • Economy - overview:

    The economy is dominated by tourism, fishing, and subsistence agriculture. Government is a major employer of the work force relying on financial assistance from the US under the Compact of Free Association (Compact) with the US that took effect after the end of the UN trusteeship on 1 October 1994. The US provided Palau with roughly $700 million in aid for the first 15 years following commencement of the Compact in 1994 in return for unrestricted access to its land and waterways for strategic purposes. The population enjoys a per capita income roughly double that of the Philippines and much of Micronesia.

    Business and leisure tourist arrivals reached a record 167,966 in 2015, a 14.4% increase over the previous year, but fell to 138,408 in 2016. Long-run prospects for tourism have been bolstered by the expansion of air travel in the Pacific, the rising prosperity of industrial East Asia, and the willingness of foreigners to finance infrastructure development. Proximity to Guam, the region's major destination for tourists from East Asia, and a regionally competitive tourist infrastructure enhance Palau's advantage as a destination.

    GDP (purchasing power parity):
    $264 million (2017 est.)
    $274.2 million (2016 est.)
    $274.1 million (2015 est.)

    note: data are in 2017 dollars

    country comparison to the world: 217
    GDP (official exchange rate):
    $292 million (2017 est.)
    GDP - real growth rate:
    -3.7% (2017 est.)
    0% (2016 est.)
    10.1% (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 215
    GDP - per capita (PPP):
    $14,700 (2017 est.)
    $15,200 (2016 est.)
    $15,200 (2015 est.)

    note: data are in 2017 dollars

    country comparison to the world: 115
    Gross national saving:
    48.7% of GDP (2016 est.)
    50.1% of GDP (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 2
    GDP - composition, by end use:
    household consumption: 60.5% (2016 est.)
    government consumption: 27.2% (2016 est.)
    investment in fixed capital: 22.7% (2016 est.)
    investment in inventories: 1.9% (2016 est.)
    exports of goods and services: 55.2% (2016 est.)
    imports of goods and services: -67.6% (2016 est.)
    GDP - composition, by sector of origin:
    agriculture: 3% (2016 est.)
    industry: 19% (2016 est.)
    services: 78% (2016 est.)
    Agriculture - products:
    coconuts, cassava (manioc, tapioca), sweet potatoes; fish, pigs, chickens, eggs, bananas, papaya, breadfruit, calamansi, soursop, Polynesian chestnuts, Polynesian almonds, mangoes, taro, guava, beans, cucumbers, squash/pumpkins (various), eggplant, green onions, kangkong (watercress), cabbages (various), radishes, betel nuts, melons, peppers, noni, okra
    tourism, fishing, subsistence agriculture
    Industrial production growth rate:
    Labor force:
    11,610 (2016)
    country comparison to the world: 216
    Labor force - by occupation:
    agriculture: 1.2%
    industry: 12.4%
    services: 86.4% (2016)
    Unemployment rate:
    1.7% (2015 est.)
    4.1% (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 15
    Population below poverty line:
    24.9% NA (2006)
    Household income or consumption by percentage share:
    lowest 10%: NA
    highest 10%: NA
    revenues: 193 million (2012 est.)
    expenditures: 167.3 million (2012 est.)
    Taxes and other revenues:
    66.1% (of GDP) (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 6
    Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
    8.8% (of GDP) (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 3
    Public debt:
    24.1% of GDP (2016 est.)
    21.6% of GDP (2015)
    country comparison to the world: 179
    Fiscal year:
    1 October - 30 September
    Inflation rate (consumer prices):
    0.9% (2017 est.)
    -1% (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 46
    Current account balance:
    -$53 million (2017 est.)
    -$36 million (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 79
    $23.17 billion (2017 est.)
    $14.8 million (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 68
    Exports - partners:
    Japan 51.3%, US 15.8%, India 13.8%, Guam 8% (2017)
    Exports - commodities:
    shellfish, tuna, other fish (many species)
    $4.715 billion (2018 est.)
    $4.079 billion (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 134
    Imports - commodities:
    machinery and equipment, fuels, metals; foodstuffs
    Imports - partners:
    US 33.4%, Guam 15.8%, Japan 15.7%, China 13.5%, South Korea 5.3% (2017)
    Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
    $0 (31 December 2017 est.)
    $580.9 million (31 December 2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 193
    Debt - external:
    $18.38 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $16.47 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 94
    Exchange rates:

    the US dollar is used

  • Energy :: Palau
  • Electricity access:
    electrification - total population: 99.3% (2016)
    electrification - urban areas: 99.6% (2016)
    electrification - rural areas: 97.2% (2016)
  • Communications :: Palau
  • Telephones - fixed lines:
    total subscriptions: 7,204
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 34 (July 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 200
    Telephones - mobile cellular:
    total subscriptions: 24,000
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 112 (July 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 210
    Telecommunication systems:
    general assessment: well-developed mobile sector recently boosted by satellite network capacity upgrades; 3G services available with satellite; lack of telecom regulations; newest and most powerful commercial satellite, Kacific-1 satellite, launched in 2019 to improve telecommunications in the Asia Pacific region (2020)
    domestic: fixed-line  34 per 100 and mobile-cellular services 112 per 100 persons (2018)
    international: country code - 680; landing point for the SEA-US submarine cable linking Palau, Philippines, Micronesia, Indonesia, Hawaii (US), Guam (US) and California (US); satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) (2019)
    the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated
    Broadcast media:
    no broadcast TV stations; a cable TV network covers the major islands and provides access to 4 local cable stations, rebroadcasts (on a delayed basis) of a number of US stations, as well as access to a number of real-time satellite TV channels; about a half dozen radio stations (1 government-owned) (2019)
    Internet country code:
    Internet users:
    total: 7,650
    percent of population: 36% (July 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 211
  • Military and Security :: Palau
  • Military and security forces:
    no regular military forces; the Ministry of Justice includes divisions/bureaus for public security, police functions, and maritime law enforcement. (2019)
    Military - note:
    Under a 1994 Compact of Free Association between Palau and the US, the US until 2044 is responsible for the defense of Palaus and the US military is granted access to the islands, but it has not stationed any military forces there. (2019)
  • Transportation :: Palau
  • National air transport system:
    number of registered air carriers: 1 (2015)
    inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 1 (2015)
    3 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 196
    Airports - with paved runways:
    total: 1 (2019)
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
    Airports - with unpaved runways:
    total: 2 (2013)
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 2 (2013)
    total: 125 km (2018)
    paved: 89 km (2018)
    unpaved: 36 km (2018)
    country comparison to the world: 205
    Merchant marine:
    total: 203
    by type: bulk carrier 9, container ship 11, general cargo 88, oil tanker 31, other 64 (2019)
    country comparison to the world: 66
    Ports and terminals:
    major seaport(s): Koror
  • Transnational Issues :: Palau
  • Disputes - international:

    maritime delineation negotiations continue with Philippines, Indonesia