Photos of Kiribati

Wreaths enfold the base of the Battle of Tarawa Memorial on Betio Island in the Republic of Kiribati. A ceremony held on 20 November 2018 marked the 75th anniversary of the battle. Photo courtesy of the US Marine Corps/ Sgt. Jacqueline A. Clifford.



Kiribati is made up of three distinct island groups -- the Gilbert Islands, the Line Islands, and the Phoenix Islands. The first Austronesian voyagers arrived in the Gilbert Islands as early as 3000 B.C., but these islands were not widely settled until about A.D. 200 by Micronesians. Around 1300, Samoans and Tongans invaded the southern Gilbert Islands, then known as Tungaru, bringing Polynesian cultural elements with them. Later arrivals of Fijians brought Melanesian elements to the Gilbert Islands, and extensive intermarriage between the Micronesian, Polynesian, and Melanesian people led to the creation of what would become Gilbertese cultural traditions by the time Europeans spotted the islands in the 1600s. The Phoenix Islands and Line Islands were both visited by various Melanesian and Polynesian peoples, but their isolation and lack of natural resources meant that long-term settlements were not possible. Both island groups were uninhabited by the time of European contact.
Kiribati experienced sustained European contact by the 1760s; all three island groups were named and charted by 1826. American whaling ships frequently passed through the islands, and the UK declared a protectorate over the Gilbert and nearby Ellice Islands in 1892, in an attempt to block growing US influence. Phosphate-rich Banaba Island was annexed to the protectorate in 1900. In 1916, the protectorate became a colony, and some Line Islands were added in 1916 and 1919, with the final ones added in 1972. The Phoenix Islands were added to the colony in 1937, and the UK agreed to share jurisdiction of some with the US because of their strategic location for aviation. During World War II, the islands were occupied by Japanese forces but were ejected by US amphibious assaults. The Ellice Islands became its own colony in 1974 and was renamed Tuvalu for “eight standing together” in 1975. The Gilbert Islands became fully self-governing in 1977 and independent in 1979 under the new name of Kiribati, the Gilbertese spelling of Gilberts. The US relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix and Line Islands in a 1979 treaty of friendship.

In 2012, Kiribati purchased a 22 sq km (8.5 sq mi) plot of land in Fiji for potential eventual resettlement of its population because of climate change, and in 2014 Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe BAINIMARAMA said residents of Kiribati would be welcome to relocate to Fiji if their country is swamped by rising sea levels. 

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



Oceania, group of 32 coral atolls and one raised coral island in the Pacific Ocean, straddling the Equator; the capital Tarawa is about halfway between Hawaii and Australia

Geographic coordinates

1 25 N, 173 00 E


total : 811 sq km

land: 811 sq km

water: 0 sq km

note: includes three island groups - Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, and Phoenix Islands - dispersed over about 3.5 million sq km (1.35 million sq mi)

comparison ranking: total 186

Area - comparative

four times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km


1,143 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


tropical; marine, hot and humid, moderated by trade winds


mostly low-lying coral atolls surrounded by extensive reefs


highest point: unnamed elevation on Banaba 81 m

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

mean elevation: 2 m

Natural resources

phosphate (production discontinued in 1979), coconuts (copra), fish

Land use

agricultural land: 42% (2018 est.)

arable land: 2.5% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 39.5% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 15% (2018 est.)

other: 43% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2022)

Population distribution

consists of three achipelagos spread out over an area roughly the size of India; the eastern Line Islands and central Phoenix Islands are sparsely populated, but the western Gilbert Islands are some of the most densely settled places on earth, with the main island of South Tarawa boasting a population density similar to Tokyo or Hong Kong

Natural hazards

typhoons can occur any time, but usually November to March; occasional tornadoes; low level of some of the islands make them sensitive to changes in sea level

Geography - note

21 of the 33 islands are inhabited; Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean -- the others are Makatea in French Polynesia, and Nauru; Kiribati is the only country in the world to fall into all four hemispheres (northern, southern, eastern, and western)

People and Society


total: 116,545

male: 56,364

female: 60,181 (2024 est.)

comparison rankings: female 189; male 190; total 189


noun: I-Kiribati (singular and plural)

adjective: Kiribati

Ethnic groups

I-Kiribati 95.78%, I-Kiribati/mixed 3.8%, Tuvaluan 0.2%, other 1.7% (2020 est.)


Gilbertese, English (official)


Roman Catholic 58.9%, Kiribati Uniting Church 21.2%, Kiribati Protestant Church 8.4%, Church of Jesus Christ 5.6%, Seventh Day Adventist 2.1%, Baha'i 2.1%, other 1.7% (2020 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 26.8% (male 15,895/female 15,304)

15-64 years: 67.9% (male 38,046/female 41,059)

65 years and over: 5.4% (2024 est.) (male 2,423/female 3,818)

2023 population pyramid:
2023 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 66.4

youth dependency ratio: 60.2

elderly dependency ratio: 6.2

potential support ratio: 16.1 (2021 est.)

Median age

total: 27.3 years (2024 est.)

male: 26.4 years

female: 28.2 years

comparison ranking: total 160

Population growth rate

1% (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 91

Birth rate

19.7 births/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 70

Death rate

6.9 deaths/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 125

Net migration rate

-2.8 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 176

Population distribution

consists of three achipelagos spread out over an area roughly the size of India; the eastern Line Islands and central Phoenix Islands are sparsely populated, but the western Gilbert Islands are some of the most densely settled places on earth, with the main island of South Tarawa boasting a population density similar to Tokyo or Hong Kong


urban population: 57.8% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 2.77% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Major urban areas - population

64,000 TARAWA (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

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

15-64 years: 0.93 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.63 male(s)/female

total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (2024 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

23.1 years (2009 est.)

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

Maternal mortality ratio

76 deaths/100,000 live births (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: 79

Infant mortality rate

total: 31.5 deaths/1,000 live births (2024 est.)

male: 33.5 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 29.4 deaths/1,000 live births

comparison ranking: total 45

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 68.5 years (2024 est.)

male: 65.9 years

female: 71.3 years

comparison ranking: total population 188

Total fertility rate

2.15 children born/woman (2024 est.)

comparison ranking: 91

Gross reproduction rate

1.05 (2024 est.)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 97.2% of population

rural: 63.1% of population

total: 82% of population

unimproved: urban: 2.8% of population

rural: 36.9% of population

total: 18% of population (2020 est.)

Current health expenditure

11.6% of GDP (2020)

Physician density

0.2 physicians/1,000 population (2013)

Hospital bed density

1.9 beds/1,000 population (2016)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 75.4% of population

rural: 45.4% of population

total: 62.1% of population

unimproved: urban: 24.6% of population

rural: 54.6% of population

total: 37.9% of population (2020 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

46% (2016)

comparison ranking: 9

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 0.43 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 0.26 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 0.17 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: total 165

Tobacco use

total: 40.6% (2020 est.)

male: 53.9% (2020 est.)

female: 27.3% (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 3

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

6.9% (2018/19)

comparison ranking: 67

Child marriage

women married by age 15: 2.4%

women married by age 18: 18.4%

men married by age 18: 8.6% (2019 est.)

Education expenditures

12.4% of GDP (2019 est.)

comparison ranking: 3


total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA


Environment - current issues

heavy pollution in lagoon of south Tarawa atoll due to overcrowding mixed with traditional practices such as lagoon latrines and open-pit dumping; ground water at risk; potential for water shortages, disease; coastal erosion

Environment - international agreements

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

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements


tropical; marine, hot and humid, moderated by trade winds

Land use

agricultural land: 42% (2018 est.)

arable land: 2.5% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 39.5% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 15% (2018 est.)

other: 43% (2018 est.)


urban population: 57.8% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 2.77% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Revenue from forest resources

0.04% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 131

Revenue from coal

0% of GDP (2018 est.)

comparison ranking: 169

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 7.62 micrograms per cubic meter (2019 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 0.07 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 0.02 megatons (2020 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 35,724 tons (2016 est.)

Total renewable water resources

0 cubic meters (2017 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Kiribati

conventional short form: Kiribati

local long form: Republic of Kiribati

local short form: Kiribati

former: Gilbert Islands

etymology: the name is the local pronunciation of "Gilberts," the former designation of the islands; originally named after explorer Thomas GILBERT, who mapped many of the islands in 1788

note: pronounced keer-ree-bahss

Government type

presidential republic


name: Tarawa

geographic coordinates: 1 21 N, 173 02 E

time difference: UTC+12 (17 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

time zone note: Kiribati has three time zones: the Gilbert Islands group at UTC+12, the Phoenix Islands at UTC+13, and the Line Islands at UTC+14

etymology: in Kiribati creation mythology, "tarawa" was what the spider Nareau named the land to distinguish it from "karawa" (the sky) and "marawa" (the ocean)

Administrative divisions

3 geographical units: Gilbert Islands, Line Islands, Phoenix Islands; note - there are no first-order administrative divisions, but there are 6 districts (Banaba, Central Gilberts, Line Islands, Northern Gilberts, Southern Gilberts, Tarawa) and 21 island councils - one for each of the inhabited islands (Abaiang, Abemama, Aranuka, Arorae, Banaba, Beru, Butaritari, Kanton, Kiritimati, Kuria, Maiana, Makin, Marakei, Nikunau, Nonouti, Onotoa, Tabiteuea, Tabuaeran, Tamana, Tarawa, Teraina)


12 July 1979 (from the UK)

National holiday

Independence Day, 12 July (1979)


history: The Gilbert and Ellice Islands Order in Council 1915, The Gilbert Islands Order in Council 1975 (preindependence); latest promulgated 12 July 1979 (at independence)

amendments: proposed by the House of Assembly; passage requires two-thirds majority vote by the Assembly membership; passage of amendments affecting the constitutional section on amendment procedures and parts of the constitutional chapter on citizenship requires deferral of the proposal to the next Assembly meeting where approval is required by at least two-thirds majority vote of the Assembly membership and support of the nominated or elected Banaban member of the Assembly; amendments affecting the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms also requires approval by at least two-thirds majority in a referendum; amended several times, last in 2018

Legal system

English common law supplemented by customary law

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 native-born citizen of Kiribati

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 7 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Taneti MAAMAU (since 11 March 2016)

head of government: President Taneti MAAMAU (since 11 March 2016)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president from among House of Assembly members

elections/appointments: president directly elected by simple majority popular vote following nomination of candidates from among House of Assembly members for a 4-year term (eligible for 2 additional terms); election last held on 22 June 2020 (next to be held in 2024); vice president appointed by the president

election results: 2020: Taneti MAAMAU reelected president; percent of vote - Taneti MAAMAU (TKB) 59.3%, Banuera BERINA (BKM) 40.7%

note: the president is both chief of state and head of government

Legislative branch

description: unicameral House of Assembly or Maneaba Ni Maungatabu (45 seats; 44 members directly elected in single- and multi-seat constituencies by absolute majority vote in two rounds if needed, and 1 member appointed by the Rabi Council of Leaders - representing Banaba Island; members serve 4-year terms)

elections: legislative elections originally scheduled to be held in two rounds on 7 and 15 April 2020 but rescheduled for 14 and 21 April 2020 (next to be held in 2024)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - TKB 22, BKM 22, appointed 1; composition - 42 men, 3 women; percentage women 6.7%

Judicial branch

highest court(s): High Court (consists of a chief justice and other judges as prescribed by the president); note - the High Court has jurisdiction on constitutional issues

judge selection and term of office: chief justice appointed by the president on the advice of the cabinet in consultation with the Public Service Commission (PSC); other judges appointed by the president on the advice of the chief justice along with the PSC

subordinate courts: Court of Appeal; magistrates' courts

Political parties and leaders

Boutokaan Kiribati Moa Party (Supporting Kiribati First) or BKM [Tessie LAMBOURNE]
Tobwaan Kiribati Party (Embracing Kiribati) or TKP [Taneti MAAMAU]

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Teburoro TITO (since 24 January 2018); note - also Permanent Representative to the UN

chancery: 685 Third Avenue, Suite 1109, New York, NY 10017

telephone: [1] (212) 867-3310

FAX: [1] (212) 867-3320

email address and website:

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: the US does not have an embassy in Kiribati; the US Ambassador to Fiji is accredited to Kiribati

Flag description

the upper half is red with a yellow frigatebird flying over a yellow rising sun, and the lower half is blue with three horizontal wavy white stripes to represent the Pacific ocean; the white stripes represent the three island groups - the Gilbert, Line, and Phoenix Islands; the 17 rays of the sun represent the 16 Gilbert Islands and Banaba (formerly Ocean Island); the frigatebird symbolizes authority and freedom

National symbol(s)

frigatebird; national colors: red, white, blue, yellow

National anthem

name: "Teirake kaini Kiribati" (Stand Up, Kiribati)

lyrics/music: Urium Tamuera IOTEBA

note: adopted 1979

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 1 (natural)

selected World Heritage Site locales: Phoenix Islands Protected Area


Economic overview

lower-middle income, Pacific island economy; environmentally fragile; sizable remittances; key phosphate mining fund; tourism and fishing industries; public sector-dominated economy; recent withdrawal from Pacific Islands Forum; ongoing constitutional crisis

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$423.828 million (2023 est.)
$406.41 million (2022 est.)
$391.315 million (2021 est.)

note: data in 2021 dollars

comparison ranking: 215

Real GDP growth rate

4.29% (2023 est.)
3.86% (2022 est.)
8.71% (2021 est.)

note: annual GDP % growth based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 70

Real GDP per capita

$3,200 (2023 est.)
$3,100 (2022 est.)
$3,000 (2021 est.)

note: data in 2021 dollars

comparison ranking: 194

GDP (official exchange rate)

$279.034 million (2023 est.)

note: data in current dollars at official exchange rate

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

2.05% (2021 est.)
2.55% (2020 est.)
-1.81% (2019 est.)

note: annual % change based on consumer prices

comparison ranking: 37

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 23% (2016 est.)

industry: 7% (2016 est.)

services: 70% (2016 est.)

comparison rankings: services 70; industry 216; agriculture 37

Agricultural products

coconuts, bananas, vegetables, taro, tropical fruits, pork, chicken, nuts, eggs, pork offal (2022)

note: top ten agricultural products based on tonnage


fishing, handicrafts

Industrial production growth rate

21.11% (2021 est.)

note: annual % change in industrial value added based on constant local currency

comparison ranking: 2

Labor force

39,000 (2010 est.)

note: economically active, not including subsistence farmers

comparison ranking: 197

Unemployment rate

30.6% (2010 est.)
6.1% (2005)

comparison ranking: 218

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 22.5% (2019 est.)

male: 21.2%

female: 24.6%

comparison ranking: total 72

Population below poverty line

21.9% (2020 est.)

note: % of population with income below national poverty line

Gini Index coefficient - distribution of family income

27.8 (2019 est.)

note: index (0-100) of income distribution; higher values represent greater inequality

comparison ranking: 164

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 4% (2019 est.)

highest 10%: 22.9% (2019 est.)

note: % share of income accruing to lowest and highest 10% of population


5.38% of GDP (2023 est.)
10.48% of GDP (2022 est.)
4.62% of GDP (2021 est.)

note: personal transfers and compensation between resident and non-resident individuals/households/entities


revenues: $281 million (2017 est.)

expenditures: $205 million (2017 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-64.1% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

comparison ranking: 221

Public debt

26.3% of GDP (2017 est.)
22.9% of GDP (2016 est.)

comparison ranking: 175

Taxes and other revenues

20.22% (of GDP) (2022 est.)

note: central government tax revenue as a % of GDP

comparison ranking: 86

Current account balance

-$6.46 million (2022 est.)
$20.251 million (2021 est.)
$71.279 million (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - net trade and primary/secondary income in current dollars

comparison ranking: 82


$19.677 million (2022 est.)
$10.754 million (2021 est.)
$21.228 million (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - exports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 217

Exports - partners

Thailand 55%, Philippines 15%, Japan 10%, Indonesia 8%, South Korea 4% (2022)

note: top five export partners based on percentage share of exports

Exports - commodities

fish, ships, coconut oil, copra, raw sugar (2022)

note: top five export commodities based on value in dollars


$254.438 million (2022 est.)
$201.984 million (2021 est.)
$148.77 million (2020 est.)

note: balance of payments - imports of goods and services in current dollars

comparison ranking: 209

Imports - partners

Taiwan 25%, China 22%, Fiji 13%, Australia 9%, South Korea 7% (2022)

note: top five import partners based on percentage share of imports

Imports - commodities

ships, refined petroleum, rice, twine and rope, prepared meat (2022)

note: top five import commodities based on value in dollars

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$8.37 million (31 December 2010 est.)

comparison ranking: 196

Debt - external

$40.9 million (2016 est.)
$32.3 million (2015 est.)

comparison ranking: 196

Exchange rates

Australian dollars (AUD) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
1.505 (2023 est.)
1.442 (2022 est.)
1.331 (2021 est.)
1.453 (2020 est.)
1.439 (2019 est.)

note: the Australian dollar circulates as legal tender


Electricity access

electrification - total population: 94.4% (2022 est.)

electrification - urban areas: 86%

electrification - rural areas: 94.3% (2020 est.)


installed generating capacity: 11,000 kW (2022 est.)

consumption: 26.225 million kWh (2022 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 5 million kWh (2022 est.)

comparison rankings: transmission/distribution losses 9; consumption 207; installed generating capacity 207

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 84.5% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)

solar: 15.5% of total installed capacity (2022 est.)


refined petroleum consumption: 500 bbl/day (2022 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

78,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2022 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 78,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total emissions 210

Energy consumption per capita

8.403 million Btu/person (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: 155


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 0 (2022 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: (2022 est.) less than 1

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 223

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 64,000 (2022 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 49 (2022 est.)

comparison ranking: total subscriptions 202

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: generally good national and international service; wireline service available on Tarawa and Kiritimati (Christmas Island); connections to outer islands by HF/VHF radiotelephone; recently formed (mobile network operator) MNO is implementing the first phase of improvements with 3G and 4G upgrades on some islands; islands are connected to each other and the rest of the world via satellite; launch of Kacific-1 in December 2019 will improve telecommunication for Kiribati (2020)

domestic: fixed-line less than 1 per 100 and mobile-cellular approximately 42 per 100 subscriptions (2021)

international: country code - 686; landing point for the Southern Cross NEXT submarine cable system from Australia, 7 Pacific Ocean island countries to the US; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) (2019)

Broadcast media

multi-channel TV packages provide access to Australian and US stations; 1 government-operated radio station broadcasts on AM, FM, and shortwave (2017)

Internet users

total: 70,200 (2021 est.)

percent of population: 54% (2021 est.)

comparison ranking: total 195

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 185 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 0.2 (2020 est.)

comparison ranking: total 213


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 8

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 66,567 (2018)


21 (2024)

comparison ranking: 132


total: 670 km (2017)

comparison ranking: total 192


5 km (2012) (small network of canals in Line Islands)

comparison ranking: 118

Merchant marine

total: 74 (2023)

by type: bulk carrier 2, general cargo 24, oil tanker 11, other 37

comparison ranking: total 104


total ports: 3 (2024)

large: 0

medium: 0

small: 0

very small: 3

ports with oil terminals: 0

key ports: Canton Island, English Harbor, Tarawa Atoll

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces; Kiribati Police and Prison Service (Ministry of Justice) (2024)

Military - note

Australia, NZ, and the US have provided security assistance

Kiribati has a "ship rider" agreement with the US, which allows local maritime law enforcement officers to embark on US Coast Guard (USCG) and US Navy (USN) vessels, including to board and search vessels suspected of violating laws or regulations within Kiribati's designated exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or on the high seas; ship rider agreements also enable USCG personnel and USN vessels with embarked USCG law enforcement personnel to work with host nations to protect critical regional resources (2023)