Photos of Jamaica

Astronaut photo of Kingston, Jamaica's capital city, taken from the International Space Station. Image courtesy of NASA.

Introduction

Background

The island - discovered by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1494 - was settled by the Spanish early in the 16th century. The native Taino, who had inhabited Jamaica for centuries, were gradually exterminated and replaced by African slaves. England seized the island in 1655 and established a plantation economy based on sugar, cocoa, and coffee. The abolition of slavery in 1834 freed a quarter million slaves, many of whom became small farmers. Jamaica gradually increased its independence from Britain. In 1958 it joined other British Caribbean colonies in forming the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica withdrew from the Federation in 1961 and gained full independence in 1962. Deteriorating economic conditions during the 1970s led to recurrent violence as rival gangs affiliated with the major political parties evolved into powerful organized crime networks involved in international drug smuggling and money laundering. Violent crime, drug trafficking, and poverty pose significant challenges to the government today. Nonetheless, many rural and resort areas remain relatively safe and contribute substantially to the economy.

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

Geography

Location

Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba

Geographic coordinates

18 15 N, 77 30 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean

Area

total: 10,991 sq km

land: 10,831 sq km

water: 160 sq km

country comparison to the world: 166

Area - comparative

about half the size of New Jersey; slightly smaller than Connecticut

<p>about half the size of New Jersey; slightly smaller than Connecticut</p>

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

1,022 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

continental shelf: 200 nm or to edge of the continental margin

measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines

Climate

tropical; hot, humid; temperate interior

Terrain

mostly mountains, with narrow, discontinuous coastal plain

Elevation

highest point: Blue Mountain Peak 2,256 m

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

mean elevation: 18 m

Natural resources

bauxite, alumina, gypsum, limestone

Land use

agricultural land: 41.4% (2018 est.)

arable land: 11.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 9.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 21.1% (2018 est.)

forest: 31.1% (2018 est.)

other: 27.5% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

250 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

population density is high throughout, but increases in and around Kingston, Montego Bay, and Port Esquivel

Natural hazards

hurricanes (especially July to November)

Geography - note

third largest island in the Caribbean (after Cuba and Hispaniola); strategic location between Cayman Trench and Jamaica Channel, the main sea lanes for the Panama Canal

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Jamaican(s)

adjective: Jamaican

Ethnic groups

Black 92.1%, mixed 6.1%, East Indian 0.8%, other 0.4%, unspecified 0.7% (2011 est.)

Languages

English, English patois

Religions

Protestant 64.8% (includes Seventh Day Adventist 12.0%, Pentecostal 11.0%, Other Church of God 9.2%, New Testament Church of God 7.2%, Baptist 6.7%, Church of God in Jamaica 4.8%, Church of God of Prophecy 4.5%, Anglican 2.8%, United Church 2.1%, Methodist 1.6%, Revived 1.4%, Brethren 0.9%, and Moravian 0.7%), Roman Catholic 2.2%, Jehovah's Witness 1.9%, Rastafarian 1.1%, other 6.5%, none 21.3%, unspecified 2.3% (2011 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 25.2% (male 360,199/female 347,436)

15-24 years: 17.95% (male 255,102/female 248,927)

25-54 years: 38.06% (male 518,583/female 550,410)

55-64 years: 9.63% (male 133,890/female 136,442)

65 years and over: 9.17% (male 121,969/female 135,612) (2020 est.)

This is the population pyramid for Jamaica. A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends. <br/><br/>For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page.

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 48

youth dependency ratio: 34.6

elderly dependency ratio: 13.4

potential support ratio: 7.4 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 29.4 years

male: 28.6 years

female: 30.1 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 131

Birth rate

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

country comparison to the world: 107

Death rate

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

country comparison to the world: 102

Net migration rate

-7.98 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 219

Population distribution

population density is high throughout, but increases in and around Kingston, Montego Bay, and Port Esquivel

Urbanization

urban population: 56.7% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 0.79% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

592,000 KINGSTON (capital) (2021)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.94 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.9 male(s)/female

total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

21.2 years (2008 est.)

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29

Maternal mortality ratio

80 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 79

Infant mortality rate

total: 11.42 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 12.72 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 10.06 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 128

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 75.49 years

male: 73.71 years

female: 77.35 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 119

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 98.5% of population

rural: 93% of population

total: 96% of population

unimproved: urban: 1.5% of population

rural: 7% of population

total: 4% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

1.31 physicians/1,000 population (2017)

Hospital bed density

1.7 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 98.5% of population

rural: 99.5% of population

total: 99% of population

unimproved: urban: 1.5% of population

rural: 0.5% of population

total: 1% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

<1,000 (2020 est.)

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over has ever attended school

total population: 88.7%

male: 84%

female: 93.1% (2015)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 12 years

male: 11 years

female: 13 years (2015)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 20.6%

male: 16.8%

female: 25.4% (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 68

Environment

Environment - current issues

heavy rates of deforestation; coastal waters polluted by industrial waste, sewage, and oil spills; damage to coral reefs; air pollution in Kingston from vehicle emissions; land erosion

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 13.25 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 8.23 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 1.08 megatons (2020 est.)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 140 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 1.1 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 114 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

10.823 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Climate

tropical; hot, humid; temperate interior

Land use

agricultural land: 41.4% (2018 est.)

arable land: 11.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 9.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 21.1% (2018 est.)

forest: 31.1% (2018 est.)

other: 27.5% (2018 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 118

Urbanization

urban population: 56.7% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 0.79% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 1,051,695 tons (2016 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Jamaica

etymology: from the native Taino word "haymaca" meaning "Land of Wood and Water" or possibly "Land of Springs"

Government type

parliamentary democracy (Parliament) under a constitutional monarchy; a Commonwealth realm

Capital

name: Kingston

geographic coordinates: 18 00 N, 76 48 W

time difference: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: the name is a blending of the words "king's" and "town"; the English king at the time of the city's founding in 1692 was William III (r. 1689-1702)

Administrative divisions

14 parishes; Clarendon, Hanover, Kingston, Manchester, Portland, Saint Andrew, Saint Ann, Saint Catherine, Saint Elizabeth, Saint James, Saint Mary, Saint Thomas, Trelawny, Westmoreland

note: for local government purposes, Kingston and Saint Andrew were amalgamated in 1923 into the present single corporate body known as the Kingston and Saint Andrew Corporation

Independence

6 August 1962 (from the UK)

National holiday

Independence Day, 6 August (1962)

Constitution

history: several previous (preindependence); latest drafted 1961-62, submitted to British Parliament 24 July 1962, entered into force 6 August 1962 (at independence)

amendments: proposed by Parliament; passage of amendments to "non-entrenched" constitutional sections, such as lowering the voting age, requires majority vote by the Parliament membership; passage of amendments to "entrenched" sections, such as fundamental rights and freedoms, requires two-thirds majority vote of Parliament; passage of amendments to "specially entrenched" sections such as the dissolution of Parliament or the executive authority of the monarch requires two-thirds approval by Parliament and approval in a referendum; amended many times, last in 2017

Legal system

common law system based on the English model

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent only: yes

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 4 out of the previous 5 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Sir Patrick L. ALLEN (since 26 February 2009)

head of government:  Prime Minister Andrew HOLNESS (since 3 March 2016) 

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition in the House of Representatives is appointed prime minister by the governor general

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Parliament consists of:
Senate (21 seats; 13 members appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister and 8 members appointed by the governor general on the advice of the opposition party leader; members serve 5-year terms (no term limits) or until Parliament is dissolved)
House of Representatives (63 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 5-year terms (no term limits) or until Parliament is dissolved)

elections: Senate - last full slate of appointments on 10 March 2016 (next full slate early on 3 September 2020, following dissolution in mid-August)
House of Representatives - last held on 3 September 2020 (next to be held in 2025)

election results: Senate - percent by party - NA; seats by party - NA; composition (as of June 2021) - men 13, women 8, percent of women 38.1%
House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - JLP 57%, PNP 42.8%, independent 0.2%; seats by party - JLP 48, PNP 15; composition (as of June 2021) - men 45, women 18; percent of women 28.6%; note - total Parliament percent of women 31%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Court of Appeal (consists of president of the court and a minimum of 4 judges); Supreme Court (40 judges organized in specialized divisions); note - appeals beyond Jamaica's highest courts are referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (in London) rather than to the Caribbean Court of Justice (the appellate court for member states of the Caribbean Community)

judge selection and term of office: chief justice of the Supreme Court and president of the Court of Appeal appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister; other judges of both courts appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission; judges of both courts serve till age 70

subordinate courts: resident magistrate courts, district courts, and petty sessions courts

Political parties and leaders

Jamaica Labor Party or JLP [Andrew Michael HOLNESS]
People's National Party or PNP [Dr. Peter David PHILLIPS]
National Democratic Movement or NDM [Peter TOWNSEND]

International organization participation

ACP, AOSIS, C, Caricom, CDB, CELAC, FAO, G-15, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (NGOs), ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITSO, ITU, LAES, MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, Petrocaribe, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Audrey Patrice MARKS (since 18 January 2017)

chancery: 1520 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036

telephone: [1] (202) 452-0660

FAX: [1] (202) 452-0036

email address and website:
firstsec@jamaicaembassy.org

http://www.embassyofjamaica.org/

consulate(s) general: Miami, New York

consulate(s): Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Concord (MA), Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Richmond (VA), San Francisco, Seattle

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Scott FEEKEN (since 9 August 2021)

embassy: 142 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6

mailing address: 3210 Kingston Place, Washington DC  20521-3210

telephone: (876) 702-6000 (2018)

FAX: (876) 702-6348 (2018)

email address and website:
KingstonACS@state.gov

https://jm.usembassy.gov/

Flag description

diagonal yellow cross divides the flag into four triangles - green (top and bottom) and black (hoist side and fly side); green represents hope, vegetation, and agriculture, black reflects hardships overcome and to be faced, and yellow recalls golden sunshine and the island's natural resources

National symbol(s)

green-and-black streamertail (bird), Guaiacum officinale (Guaiacwood); national colors: green, yellow, black

National anthem

name: Jamaica, Land We Love

lyrics/music: Hugh Braham SHERLOCK/Robert Charles LIGHTBOURNE

note: adopted 1962

Economy

Economic overview

The Jamaican economy is heavily dependent on services, which accounts for more than 70% of GDP. The country derives most of its foreign exchange from tourism, remittances, and bauxite/alumina. Earnings from remittances and tourism each account for 14% and 20% of GDP, while bauxite/alumina exports have declined to less than 5% of GDP.

Jamaica's economy has grown on average less than 1% a year for the last three decades and many impediments remain to growth: a bloated public sector which crowds out spending on important projects; high crime and corruption; red-tape; and a high debt-to-GDP ratio. Jamaica, however, has made steady progress in reducing its debt-to-GDP ratio from a high of almost 150% in 2012 to less than 110% in 2017, in close collaboration with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The current IMF Stand-By Agreement requires Jamaica to produce an annual primary surplus of 7%, in an attempt to reduce its debt burden below 60% by 2025.

Economic growth reached 1.6% in 2016, but declined to 0.9% in 2017 after intense rainfall, demonstrating the vulnerability of the economy to weather-related events. The HOLNESS administration therefore faces the difficult prospect of maintaining fiscal discipline to reduce the debt load while simultaneously implementing growth inducing policies and attacking a serious crime problem. High unemployment exacerbates the crime problem, including gang violence fueled by advanced fee fraud (lottery scamming) and the drug trade.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$28.779 billion (2019 est.)

$28.579 billion (2018 est.)

$28.035 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 140

Real GDP growth rate

0.7% (2017 est.)

1.5% (2016 est.)

0.9% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 180

Real GDP per capita

$9,762 (2019 est.)

$9,738 (2018 est.)

$9,598 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 145

GDP (official exchange rate)

$15.847 billion (2019 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

3.9% (2019 est.)

3.7% (2018 est.)

4.3% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 164

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: B+ (2019)

Moody's rating: B2 (2019)

Standard & Poors rating: B+ (2019)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 7% (2017 est.)

industry: 21.1% (2017 est.)

services: 71.9% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 81.9% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 13.7% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 21.3% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0.1% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 30.1% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -47.1% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

sugar cane, goat milk, yams, poultry, coconuts, oranges, bananas, gourds, plantains, grapefruit

Industries

agriculture, mining, manufacture, construction, financial and insurance services, tourism, telecommunications

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 16.1%

industry: 16%

services: 67.9% (2017)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.6%

highest 10%: 29.3% (2015)

Budget

revenues: 4.382 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 4.314 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

101% of GDP (2017 est.)

113.6% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 16

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Current account balance

-$298 million (2019 est.)

-$288 million (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 107

Exports

$5.114 billion (2018 est.)

$4.747 billion (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 116

Exports - partners

United States 32%, Netherlands 11%, Germany 9%, Canada 7%, Iceland 7% (2019)

Exports - commodities

bauxite, refined petroleum, aluminum, rum, fruits, nuts (2019)

Imports

$7.314 billion (2018 est.)

$6.924 billion (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 122

Imports - partners

United States 43%, China 11% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, cars, crude petroleum, natural gas, packaged medicines (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$3.781 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$2.719 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 100

Debt - external

$13.876 billion (2019 est.)

$13.912 billion (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 104

Exchange rates

Jamaican dollars (JMD) per US dollar -

128.36 (2017 est.)

125.14 (2016 est.)

125.126 (2015 est.)

116.898 (2014 est.)

110.935 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 99% (2019)

electrification - urban areas: 100% (2019)

electrification - rural areas: 97% (2019)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 398,048

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 14.15 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 102

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 3,023,873

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 107.46 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 139

Telecommunication systems

general assessment:

good domestic and international service; mobile sector dominates, accounting for majority of the Internet connections and half of telecom sector revenue; extensive LTE networks providing coverage to most of the island population; regulator encouraging competition with little success due to breach of license; government announced support of national broadband network to aid access to education, hospitals, police, and municipal institutions; operators provided customers with data plans to support educational platforms; US grant to fund New Kingston smart city program (2021)

(2020)

domestic: while the number of fixed-lines, 14 per 100, subscriptions has declined, cellular-mobile has grown 103 per 100 subscriptions (2019)

international: country code - 1-876 and 1-658; landing points for the ALBA-1, CFX-1, Fibralink, East-West, and Cayman-Jamaican Fiber System submarine cables providing connections to South America, parts of the Caribbean, Central America and the US; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

3 free-to-air TV stations, subscription cable services, and roughly 30 radio stations (2019)

Internet users

total: 1,548,618

percent of population: 55.07% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 130

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 317,907

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 11.3 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 103

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 0 (2020)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 11

2,438 to 3,047 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 4

under 914 m: 5 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 17

914 to 1,523 m: 1

under 914 m: 16 (2013)

Roadways

total: 22,121 km (includes 44 km of expressways) (2011)

paved: 16,148 km (2011)

unpaved: 5,973 km (2011)

country comparison to the world: 110

Merchant marine

total: 46

by type: bulk carrier 1, container ship 7, general cargo 8, oil tanker 1, other 29 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 120

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Discovery Bay (Port Rhoades), Kingston, Montego Bay, Port Antonio, Port Esquivel, Port Kaiser, Rocky Point

container port(s) (TEUs): Kingston (1,647,609) (2019)

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Jamaica Defense Force (JDF): Jamaica Regiment (Ground Forces), Maritime-Air-Cyber Command (includes Coast Guard, Air Wing, Military Intelligence Unit, Special Activities Regiment, and Military Cyber Corps), Support Brigade (logistics, engineers, health service, and military police); Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) (2021)

note - both the JDF and JCF are under the Ministry of National Security

Military expenditures

1.7% of GDP (2020 est.)

1.6% of GDP (2019)

1.3% of GDP (2018)

1% of GDP (2017)

0.9% of GDP (2016)

country comparison to the world: 75

Military and security service personnel strengths

information varies; approximately 4,000 total active personnel (2021)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the Jamaica Defense Force is lightly armed with a limited inventory featuring mostly older equipment imported from a variety of foreign suppliers, including the UK and US; since 2010, Jamaica has received limited quantities of military equipment from Australia, Austria, the Netherlands, and the US (2020)

Military service age and obligation

no conscription; 18-23 for voluntary military service (17 with parental consent; 18-28 for the reserves); since 2017, the JDF's standard mode of recruitment is to enroll recruits ages 18-23 through the Jamaica National Service Corps (JNSC); in the JNSC, soldiers receive basic military, vocational, and life skills training; upon completion of 1-year of service, soldiers can continue on with JDF or seek other opportunities with law enforcement (2020)

Transnational Issues

Illicit drugs

transshipment point for cocaine from South America to North America and Europe; illicit cultivation and consumption of cannabis; government has an active manual cannabis eradication program; corruption is a major concern; substantial money-laundering activity; Colombian narcotics traffickers favor Jamaica for illicit financial transactions