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Australia - Oceania :: Tokelau Print
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  • Introduction :: Tokelau
  • Background field listing
    Originally settled by Polynesian emigrants from surrounding island groups, the Tokelau Islands were made a British protectorate in 1889. They were transferred to New Zealand administration in 1925. Referenda held in 2006 and 2007 to change the status of the islands from that of a New Zealand territory to one of free association with New Zealand did not meet the needed threshold for approval.
  • Geography :: Tokelau
  • Location field listing
    Oceania, group of three atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand
    Geographic coordinates field listing
    9 00 S, 172 00 W
    Map references field listing
    Area field listing
    total: 12 sq km
    land: 12 sq km
    water: 0 sq km
    country comparison to the world: 242
    Area - comparative field listing
    about 17 times the size of the National Mall in Washington, DC
    Land boundaries field listing
    0 km
    Coastline field listing
    101 km
    Maritime claims field listing
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
    Climate field listing
    tropical; moderated by trade winds (April to November)
    Terrain field listing
    low-lying coral atolls enclosing large lagoons
    Elevation field listing
    lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
    highest point: unnamed location 5 m
    Natural resources field listing
    Land use field listing
    agricultural land: 60% (2011 est.)
    arable land: 0% (2011 est.) / permanent crops: 60% (2011 est.) / permanent pasture: 0% (2011 est.)
    forest: 0% (2011 est.)
    other: 40% (2011 est.)
    Irrigated land field listing
    0 sq km (2012)
    Population distribution field listing
    the country's small population is fairly evenly distributed amongst the three atolls
    Natural hazards field listing
    lies in Pacific cyclone belt
    Environment - current issues field listing
    overexploitation of certain fish and other marine species, coastal sand, and forest resources; pollution of freshwater lenses and coastal waters from improper disposal of chemicals
    Geography - note field listing
    consists of three atolls (Atafu, Fakaofo, Nukunonu), each with a lagoon surrounded by a number of reef-bound islets of varying length and rising to over 3 m above sea level
  • People and Society :: Tokelau
  • Population field listing
    1,647 (2019 est. est.)
    country comparison to the world: 234
    Nationality field listing
    noun: Tokelauan(s)
    adjective: Tokelauan
    Ethnic groups field listing
    Tokelauan 64.5%, part Tokelauan/Samoan 9.7%, part Tokelauan/Tuvaluan 2.8%, Tuvaluan 7.5%, Samoan 5.8%, other Pacific Islander 3.4%, other 5.6%, unspecified 0.8% (2016 est.)
    Languages field listing
    Tokelauan 88.1% (a Polynesian language), English 48.6%, Samoan 26.7%, Tuvaluan 11.2%, Kiribati 1.5%, other 2.8%, none 2.8%, unspecified 0.8% (2016 ests.)

    note: shares sum to more than 100% because some respondents gave more than one answer on the census

    Religions field listing
    Congregational Christian Church 50.4%, Roman Catholic 38.7%, Presbyterian 5.9%, other Christian 4.2%, unspecified 0.8% (2016 est.)
    Population growth rate field listing
    -0.01% (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 196
    Population distribution field listing
    the country's small population is fairly evenly distributed amongst the three atolls
    Urbanization field listing
    urban population: 0% of total population (2020)
    rate of urbanization: 0% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
    Sex ratio field listing
    Infant mortality rate field listing
    total: NA (2018)
    male: NA
    female: NA
    Life expectancy at birth field listing
    total population: NA (2017 est.)
    male: NA
    female: NA
    Total fertility rate field listing
    Drinking water source field listing
    improved: rural: 100% of population
    total: 100% of population
    unimproved: rural: 0% of population
    total: 0% of population (2017 est.)
    Physicians density field listing
    2.72 physicians/1,000 population (2010)
    Sanitation facility access field listing
    improved: rural: 90.5% of population (2015 est.)
    total: 90.5% of population (2015 est.)
    unimproved: rural: 9.5% of population (2015 est.)
    total: 9.5% of population (2015 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate field listing
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS field listing
    HIV/AIDS - deaths field listing
    Major infectious diseases field listing
    degree of risk: high (2020)
    food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea
    vectorborne diseases: malaria
    Education expenditures field listing
  • Government :: Tokelau
  • Country name field listing
    conventional long form: none
    conventional short form: Tokelau
    former: Union Islands, Tokelau Islands
    etymology: "tokelau" is a Polynesian word meaning "north wind"
    Dependency status field listing
    self-administering territory of New Zealand; note - Tokelau and New Zealand have agreed to a draft constitution as Tokelau moves toward free association with New Zealand; a UN-sponsored referendum on self governance in October 2007 did not meet the two-thirds majority vote necessary for changing the political status
    Government type field listing

    parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy

    Capital field listing
    UTC+13 (18 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    Administrative divisions field listing
    none (territory of New Zealand)
    Independence field listing
    none (territory of New Zealand)
    National holiday field listing
    Waitangi Day (Treaty of Waitangi established British sovereignty over New Zealand), 6 February (1840)
    Constitution field listing
    history: many previous; latest effective 1 January 1949 (Tokelau Islands Act 1948)
    amendments: proposed as a resolution by the General Fono; passage requires support by each village and approval by the General Fono; amended many times, last in 2007
    Citizenship field listing
    see New Zealand
    Suffrage field listing
    21 years of age; universal
    Executive branch field listing
    chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General of New Zealand Governor General Dame Patricia Lee REDDY (since 28 September 2016); New Zealand is represented by Administrator Jonathan KINGS (since 30 August 2017)
    head of government: Afega GAULOFA (since 10 March 2016); note - position rotates annually among the three Faipule (village leaders)
    cabinet: Council for the Ongoing Government of Tokelau (or Tokelau Council) functions as a cabinet; consists of 3 Faipule (village leaders) and 3 Pulenuku (village mayors)
    elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; administrator appointed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade in New Zealand; head of government chosen from the Council of Faipule to serve a 1-year term

    note: the meeting place of the Tokelau Council rotates annually among the three atolls; this tradition has given rise to the somewhat misleading description that the capital rotates yearly between the three atolls; in actuality, it is the seat of the government councilors that rotates since Tokelau has no capital

    Legislative branch field listing
    description: unicameral General Fono (20 seats apportioned by island - Atafu 7, Fakaofo 7, Nukunonu 6; members directly elected by simple majority vote to serve 3-year terms); note - the Tokelau Amendment Act of 1996 confers limited legislative power to the General Fono
    elections: last held on 23, 27, and 31 January 2017 depending on island (next to be held in 2020)
    election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - independent 20; composition - men 17, women 3, percent of women 15%
    Judicial branch field listing
    highest courts: Court of Appeal (in New Zealand) (consists of the court president and 8 judges sitting in 3- or 5-judge panels, depending on the case)
    judge selection and term of office: judges nominated by the Judicial Selection Committee and approved by three-quarters majority of the Parliament; judges serve for life
    subordinate courts: High Court (in New Zealand); Council of Elders or Taupulega
    Political parties and leaders field listing
    International organization participation field listing
    PIF (associate member), SPC, UNESCO (associate), UPU
    Diplomatic representation in the US field listing
    none (territory of New Zealand)
    Diplomatic representation from the US field listing
    none (territory of New Zealand)
    Flag description field listing
    a yellow stylized Tokelauan canoe on a dark blue field sails toward the manu - the Southern Cross constellation of four, white, five-pointed stars at the hoist side; the Southern Cross represents the role of Christianity in Tokelauan culture and, in conjunction with the canoe, symbolizes the country navigating into the future; the color yellow indicates happiness and peace, and the blue field represents the ocean on which the community relies
    National symbol(s) field listing
    tuluma (fishing tackle box); national colors: blue, yellow, white
    National anthem field listing
    name: "Te Atua" (For the Almighty)
    lyrics/music: unknown/Falani KALOLO

    note: adopted 2008; in preparation for eventual self governance, Tokelau held a national contest to choose an anthem; as a territory of New Zealand, "God Defend New Zealand" and "God Save the Queen" are official (see New Zealand)

  • Economy :: Tokelau
  • Economy - overview field listing

    Tokelau's small size (three villages), isolation, and lack of resources greatly restrain economic development and confine agriculture to the subsistence level. The principal sources of revenue are from sales of copra, postage stamps, souvenir coins, and handicrafts. Money is also remitted to families from relatives in New Zealand.

    The people rely heavily on aid from New Zealand - about $15 million annually in FY12/13 and FY13/14 - to maintain public services. New Zealand's support amounts to 80% of Tokelau's recurrent government budget. An international trust fund, currently worth nearly $32 million, was established in 2004 by New Zealand to provide Tokelau an independent source of revenue.

    GDP (purchasing power parity) field listing
    $1.5 million (1993 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 229
    GDP (official exchange rate) field listing
    GDP - real growth rate field listing


    GDP - per capita (PPP) field listing
    $1,000 (1993 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 225
    GDP - composition, by sector of origin field listing
    agriculture: NA
    industry: NA
    services: NA
    Agriculture - products field listing
    coconuts, copra, breadfruit, papayas, bananas; pigs, poultry, goats; fish
    Industries field listing
    small-scale enterprises for copra production, woodworking, plaited craft goods; stamps, coins; fishing
    Labor force field listing
    440 (2001)
    country comparison to the world: 231
    Unemployment rate field listing


    Population below poverty line field listing
    Budget field listing
    revenues: 430,800 (1987 est.)
    expenditures: 2.8 million (1987 est.)
    Fiscal year field listing
    1 April - 31 March
    Inflation rate (consumer prices) field listing


    Exports field listing
    $0 (2002 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 224
    Exports - commodities field listing
    stamps, copra, handicrafts
    Imports field listing
    $969,200 (2002 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 224
    Imports - commodities field listing
    foodstuffs, building materials, fuel
    Exchange rates field listing
    New Zealand dollars (NZD) per US dollar -
    1.416 (2017 est.)
    1.4279 (2016 est.)
    1.4279 (2015)
    1.4279 (2014 est.)
    1.2039 (2013 est.)
  • Energy :: Tokelau
  • Crude oil - proved reserves field listing
    0 bbl (1 January 2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 205
  • Communications :: Tokelau
  • Telephones - fixed lines field listing
    total subscriptions: 300
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 21 (July 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 218
    Telecommunication systems field listing
    general assessment: modern satellite-based communications system; demand for mobile broadband increasing due to mobile services being the method of access for Internet across the region; 2G widespread with some 4G LTE service; satellite services will improve with the launch of the Kacific-1 satellite launched in 2019 (2020)
    domestic: radiotelephone service between islands; fixed-line less than 1 per 100 (2018)
    international: country code - 690; landing point for the Southern Cross NEXT submarine cable linking Australia, Tokelau, Samoa, Kiribati, Fiji, New Zealand and Los Angeles, CA (USA); radiotelephone service to Samoa; government-regulated telephone service (TeleTok); satellite earth stations - 3 (2020)
    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 field listing
    Sky TV access for around 30% of the population; each atoll operates a radio service that provides shipping news and weather reports (2019)
    Internet country code field listing
    Internet users field listing
    total: 805
    percent of population: 60.2% (July 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 225
  • Military and Security :: Tokelau
  • Military - note field listing
    defense is the responsibility of New Zealand
  • Transportation :: Tokelau
  • Roadways field listing
    total: 10 km (2019)
    country comparison to the world: 219
    Ports and terminals field listing
    none; offshore anchorage only
  • Transnational Issues :: Tokelau
  • Disputes - international field listing

    Tokelau included American Samoa's Swains Island (Olosega) in its 2006 draft independence constitution