Photos of French Polynesia

Introduction

Background

The French annexed various Polynesian island groups during the 19th century. In 1966, the French Government began testing nuclear weapons on the uninhabited Mururoa Atoll; following mounting opposition, the tests were moved underground in 1975. In September 1995, France stirred up widespread protests by resuming nuclear testing after a three-year moratorium. The tests were halted in January 1996. In recent years, French Polynesia's autonomy has been considerably expanded.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Oceania, five archipelagoes (Archipel des Tuamotu, Iles Gambier, Iles Marquises, Iles Tubuai, Society Islands) in the South Pacific Ocean about halfway between South America and Australia

Geographic coordinates

15 00 S, 140 00 W

Area

total: 4,167 sq km (118 islands and atolls; 67 are inhabited)

land: 3,827 sq km

water: 340 sq km

country comparison to the world: 174

Area - comparative

slightly less than one-third the size of Connecticut

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

2,525 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical, but moderate

Terrain

mixture of rugged high islands and low islands with reefs

Elevation

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

highest point: Mont Orohena 2,241 m

Natural resources

timber, fish, cobalt, hydropower

Land use

agricultural land: 12.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0.7% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 6.3% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 5.5% (2018 est.)

forest: 43.7% (2018 est.)

other: 43.8% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

10 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

the majority of the population lives in the Society Islands, one of five archipelagos that includes the most populous island - Tahiti - with approximately 70% of the nation's population

Natural hazards

occasional cyclonic storms in January

Environment - current issues

sea level rise; extreme weather events (cyclones, storms, and tsunamis producing floods, landslides, erosion, and reef damage); droughts; fresh water scarcity

Geography - note

includes five archipelagoes: four volcanic (Iles Gambier, Iles Marquises, Iles Tubuai, Society Islands) and one coral (Archipel des Tuamotu); the Tuamotu Archipelago forms the largest group of atolls in the world - 78 in total, 48 inhabited; Makatea in the Tuamotu Archipelago is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Nauru

People and Society

Nationality

noun: French Polynesian(s)

adjective: French Polynesian

Ethnic groups

Polynesian 78%, Chinese 12%, local French 6%, metropolitan French 4%

Languages

French (official) 70%, Polynesian (official) 28.2%, other 1.8% (2012 est.)

Religions

Protestant 54%, Roman Catholic 30%, other 10%, no religion 6%

Age structure

0-14 years: 21.69% (male 32,920/female 31,100)

15-24 years: 14.72% (male 22,640/female 20,793)

25-54 years: 44.24% (male 66,921/female 63,636)

55-64 years: 10.31% (male 15,610/female 14,823)

65 years and over: 9.04% (male 12,854/female 13,824) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 45.5

youth dependency ratio: 32.3

elderly dependency ratio: 13.2

potential support ratio: 7.6 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 33.3 years

male: 33 years

female: 33.5 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 98

Birth rate

13.69 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 135

Death rate

5.51 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 181

Net migration rate

-0.66 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 128

Population distribution

the majority of the population lives in the Society Islands, one of five archipelagos that includes the most populous island - Tahiti - with approximately 70% of the nation's population

Urbanization

urban population: 62% of total population (2020)

rate of urbanization: 1.01% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas - population

136,000 PAPEETE (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.09 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.93 male(s)/female

total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 4.46 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 5.37 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 3.51 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 183

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 78.19 years

male: 75.86 years

female: 80.63 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 71

Drinking water source

improved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

2.13 physicians/1,000 population (2009)

Sanitation facility access

improved: total: 96.9% of population

unimproved: total: 3.1% of population (2017 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: malaria

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 56.7%

male: 54.5%

female: 59.7% (2012 est.)

country comparison to the world: 1

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Overseas Lands of French Polynesia

conventional short form: French Polynesia

local long form: Pays d'outre-mer de la Polynesie Francaise

local short form: Polynesie Francaise

former: Establishments in Oceania, French Establishments in Oceania

etymology: the term "Polynesia" is an 18th-century construct composed of two Greek words, "poly" (many) and "nesoi" (islands), and refers to the more than 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean

Dependency status

overseas country of France; note - overseas territory of France from 1946-2003; overseas collectivity of France since 2003, though it is often referred to as an overseas country due to its degree of autonomy

Government type

parliamentary democracy (Assembly of French Polynesia); an overseas collectivity of France

Capital

name: Papeete (located on Tahiti)

geographic coordinates: 17 32 S, 149 34 W

time difference: UTC-10 (5 hours behind Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: the name means "water basket" and refers to the fact that the islanders originally used calabashes enclosed in baskets to fetch water at a spring in the area

Administrative divisions

5 administrative subdivisions (subdivisions administratives, singular - subdivision administrative): Iles Australes (Austral Islands), Iles du Vent (Windward Islands), Iles Marquises (Marquesas Islands), Iles Sous-le-Vent (Leeward Islands), Iles Tuamotu-Gambier; note - the Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands together make up the Society Islands (Iles de la Societe)

Independence

none (overseas lands of France)

National holiday

Fete de la Federation, 14 July (1790); note - the local holiday is Internal Autonomy Day, 29 June (1880)

Constitution

history: 4 October 1958 (French Constitution)

amendments: French constitution amendment procedures apply

Legal system

the laws of France, where applicable, apply

Citizenship

see France

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Emmanuel MACRON (since 14 May 2017), represented by High Commissioner of the Republic Dominique SORAIN (since 10 July 2019)

head of government: President of French Polynesia Edouard FRITCH (since 12 September 2014)

cabinet: Council of Ministers approved by the Assembly from a list of its members submitted by the president

elections/appointments: French president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); high commissioner appointed by the French president on the advice of the French Ministry of Interior; French Polynesia president indirectly elected by Assembly of French Polynesia for a 5-year term (no term limits)

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Assembly of French Polynesia or Assemblée de la Polynésie française (57 seats; elections held in 2 rounds; in the second round, 38 members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by a closed-list proportional representation vote; the party receiving the most votes gets an additional 19 seats; members serve 5-year terms)




French Polynesia indirectly elects 2 senators to the French Senate via an electoral college by absolute majority vote for 6-year terms with one-half the membership renewed every 3 years and directly elects 3 deputies to the French National Assembly by absolute majority vote in 2 rounds if needed for 5-year terms

elections:

Assembly of French Polynesia - last held on 22 April 2018 and 6 May 2018 (next to be held in 2023)
French Senate - last held in September 2017 (next to be held in September 2020)
French National Assembly - last held in 2 rounds on 3 and 17 June 2017 (next to be held in 2022)



election results:

Assembly of French Polynesia - percent of vote by party - Tapura Huiraatira 45.1%, Popular Rally 29.3%, Tavini Huiraatira 25.6%; seats by party - Tapura Huiraatira 38, Popular Rally 11, Tavini Huiraatira 8; composition - men 27, women 30, percent of women 52.6%
French Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Popular Rally 1, People's Servant Party 1; composition - men 246, women 102, percent of women 29.3%
French National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Tapura Huiractura 2, Tavini Huiraatura 1; composition - men 353, women 224, percent of women 38.8%; note - total Parliament percent of women 20%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Court of Appeal or Cour d'Appel (composition NA); note - appeals beyond the French Polynesia Court of Appeal are heard by the Court of Cassation (in Paris)

judge selection and term of office: judges assigned from France normally for 3 years

subordinate courts: Court of the First Instance or Tribunal de Premiere Instance; Court of Administrative Law or Tribunal Administratif

Political parties and leaders

A Tia Porinetia [Teva ROHFRITSCH]
Alliance for a New Democracy or ADN (includes The New Star [Philip SCHYLE], This Country is Yours [Nicole BOUTEAU])
New Fatherland Party (Ai'a Api) [Emile VERNAUDON]
Our Home alliance
People's Servant Party (Tavini Huiraatira) [Oscar TEMARU]
Popular Rally (Tahoeraa Huiraatira) [Gaston FLOSSE]
Tapura Huiraatira [Edouard FRITICH]
Tavini Huiraatira [James CHANCELOR]
Union for Democracy alliance or UPD [Oscar TEMARU]

International organization participation

ITUC (NGOs), PIF (associate member), SPC, UPU, WMO

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (overseas lands of France)

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (overseas lands of France)

Flag description

two red horizontal bands encase a wide white band in a 1:2:1 ratio; centered on the white band is a disk with a blue and white wave pattern depicting the sea on the lower half and a gold and white ray pattern depicting the sun on the upper half; a Polynesian canoe rides on the wave pattern; the canoe has a crew of five represented by five stars that symbolize the five island groups; red and white are traditional Polynesian colors

note: identical to the red-white-red flag of Tahiti, the largest and most populous of the islands in French Polynesia, but which has no emblem in the white band; the flag of France is used for official occasions

National symbol(s)

outrigger canoe, Tahitian gardenia (Gardenia taitensis) flower; national colors: red, white

National anthem

name: "Ia Ora 'O Tahiti Nui" (Long Live Tahiti Nui)

lyrics/music: Maeva BOUGES, Irmine TEHEI, Angele TEROROTUA, Johanna NOUVEAU, Patrick AMARU, Louis MAMATUI, and Jean-Pierre CELESTIN (the compositional group created both the lyrics and music)

note: adopted 1993; serves as a local anthem; as a territory of France, "La Marseillaise" is official (see France)

Government - note

under certain acts of France, French Polynesia has acquired autonomy in all areas except those relating to police, monetary policy, tertiary education, immigration, and defense and foreign affairs; the duties of its president are fashioned after those of the French prime minister

Economy

Economic overview

Since 1962, when France stationed military personnel in the region, French Polynesia has changed from a subsistence agricultural economy to one in which a high proportion of the work force is either employed by the military or supports the tourist industry. With the halt of French nuclear testing in 1996, the military contribution to the economy fell sharply.

After growing at an average yearly rate of 4.2% from 1997-2007, the economic and financial crisis in 2008 marked French Polynesia’s entry into recession. However, since 2014, French Polynesia has shown signs of recovery. Business turnover reached 1.8% year-on-year in September 2016, tourism increased 1.8% in 2015, and GDP grew 2.0% in 2015.

French Polynesia’s tourism-dominated service sector accounted for 85% of total value added for the economy in 2012. Tourism employs 17% of the workforce. Pearl farming is the second biggest industry, accounting for 54% of exports in 2015; however, the output has decreased to 12.5 tons – the lowest level since 2008. A small manufacturing sector predominantly processes commodities from French Polynesia’s primary sector - 8% of total economy in 2012 - including agriculture and fishing.

France has agreed to finance infrastructure, marine businesses, and cultural and ecological sites at roughly $80 million per year between 2015 and 2020. Japan, the US, and China are French Polynesia’s three largest trade partners.

Real GDP growth rate

2% (2015 est.)

-2.7% (2014 est.)

-2.5% (2010 est.)

country comparison to the world: 136

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$5.49 billion (2017 est.)

$5.383 billion (2016 est.)

$6.963 billion (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 175

GDP (official exchange rate)

$4.795 billion (2015 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$17,000 (2015 est.)

$20,100 (2014 est.)

$22,700 (2010)

country comparison to the world: 102

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 2.5% (2009)

industry: 13% (2009)

services: 84.5% (2009)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 66.9% (2014 est.)

government consumption: 33.6% (2014 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 19.4% (2014 est.)

investment in inventories: 0.1% (2014 est.)

exports of goods and services: 17.5% (2014 est.)

imports of goods and services: -37.5% (2014 est.)

Agricultural products

coconuts, fruit, roots/tubers nes, pineapples, cassava, sugar cane, eggs, tropical fruit, tomatoes

Industries

tourism, pearls, agricultural processing, handicrafts, phosphates

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 13%

industry: 19%

services: 68% (2013 est.)

Budget

revenues: 1.891 billion (2012)

expenditures: 1.833 billion (2011)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

$207.7 million (2014 est.)

$158.8 million (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 57

Exports

$1.245 billion (2014 est.)

$1.168 billion (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 152

Exports - partners

Japan 23.1%, Hong Kong 21.5%, Kyrgyzstan 15.9%, US 15.9%, France 12.4% (2017)

Exports - commodities

cultured pearls, coconut products, mother-of-pearl, vanilla, shark meat

Imports

$2.235 billion (2014 est.)

$2.271 billion (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 167

Imports - partners

France 27.9%, South Korea 12.1%, US 10.1%, China 7.3%, NZ 6.7%, Singapore 4.2% (2017)

Imports - commodities

fuels, foodstuffs, machinery and equipment

Exchange rates

Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique francs (XPF) per US dollar -

110.2 (2017 est.)

107.84 (2016 est.)

107.84 (2015 est.)

89.85 (2014 est.)

90.56 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 63,769

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 21.78 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 152

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 305,233

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 104.25 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 179

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: one of the most advanced telecom infrastructures for the Pacific island region; 85% mobile broadband coverage; 40% of its mobile connections using 3G and the rest using emerging 4G LTE technology; 100% mobile penetration; uses Uplink systems of the Galileo satellite network; and with the launch of the Kacific-1 satellite in 2019, it will allow speedy access to the Internet for Pacific islands (2020)

domestic: fixed-line subscriptions 22 per 100 persons and mobile-cellular density is roughly 104 per 100 persons (2019)

international: country code - 689; landing points for the NATITUA, Manatua, and Honotua submarine cables to other French Polynesian Islands, Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and US; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) (2019)

note: 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

French public overseas broadcaster Reseau Outre-Mer provides 2 TV channels and 1 radio station; 1 government-owned TV station; a small number of privately owned radio stations (2019)

Internet users

total: 211,101

percent of population: 72.7% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 174

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 59,790

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 21 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 132

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2 (registered in France) (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 19 (registered in France)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 45 (2017)

over 3,047 m: 2 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 5 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m: 33 (2017)

under 914 m: 5 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 9 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 4 (2013)

under 914 m: 5 (2013)

Heliports

1 (2013)

Roadways

total: 2,590 km (1999)

paved: 1,735 km (1999)

unpaved: 855 km (1999)

country comparison to the world: 167

Merchant marine

total: 24

by type: general cargo 14, other 10 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 143

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Papeete

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces (2019)

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of France and France maintains forces in French Polynesia (2019)

Transnational Issues