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 gained full independence when it withdrew from the Federation 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.



Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba

Geographic coordinates

18 15 N, 77 30 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean


total: 10,991 sq km
land: 10,831 sq km
water: 160 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Connecticut

Land boundaries

0 km


1,022 km

Maritime claims

measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to edge of the continental margin


tropical; hot, humid; temperate interior


mostly mountains, with narrow, discontinuous coastal plain


mean elevation: 18 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Blue Mountain Peak 2,256 m

Natural resources

bauxite, gypsum, limestone

Land use

agricultural land: 41.4%
arable land 11.1%; permanent crops 9.2%; permanent pasture 21.1%
forest: 31.1%
other: 27.5% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

250 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards

hurricanes (especially July to November)

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

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

strategic location between Cayman Trench and Jamaica Channel, the main sea lanes for the Panama Canal

People and Society

Ethnic groups

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


2,970,340 (July 2016 est.)


noun: Jamaican(s)
adjective: Jamaican


English, English patois


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: 27.56% (male 416,421/female 402,283)
15-24 years: 21.13% (male 315,190/female 312,362)
25-54 years: 37.59% (male 551,384/female 565,279)
55-64 years: 5.78% (male 82,754/female 88,786)
65 years and over: 7.94% (male 105,593/female 130,288) (2016 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 48.6%
youth dependency ratio: 35%
elderly dependency ratio: 13.6%
potential support ratio: 7.4% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 25.6 years
male: 25.1 years
female: 26.1 years (2016 est.)

Population growth rate

0.68% (2016 est.)

Birth rate

18 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate

6.7 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Net migration rate

-4.5 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Population distribution

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


urban population: 54.8% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 0.9% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

KINGSTON (capital) 588,000 (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.93 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.81 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Child labor - children ages 5-14

total number: 38,516
percentage: 6% (2005 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

89 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 13.1 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 13.7 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 12.5 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 73.6 years
male: 72 years
female: 75.3 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.99 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

72.5% (2008/09)

Health expenditures

5.4% of GDP (2014)

Physicians density

0.41 physicians/1,000 population (2008)

Hospital bed density

1.7 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Drinking water source

urban: 97.5% of population
rural: 89.4% of population
total: 93.8% of population
urban: 2.5% of population
rural: 10.6% of population
total: 6.2% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

urban: 79.9% of population
rural: 84.1% of population
total: 81.8% of population
urban: 20.1% of population
rural: 15.9% of population
total: 18.2% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

1.63% (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

29,000 (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

1,200 (2015 est.)

Major infectious diseases

note: active local transmission of Zika virus by Aedes species mosquitoes has been identified in this country (as of August 2016); it poses an important risk (a large number of cases possible) among US citizens if bitten by an infective mosquito; other less common ways to get Zika are through sex, via blood transfusion, or during pregnancy, in which the pregnant woman passes Zika virus to her fetus (2016)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

26.8% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

2.5% (2012)

Education expenditures

5.4% of GDP (2015)


definition: age 15 and over has ever attended school
total population: 88.7%
male: 84%
female: 93.1% (2015 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2008 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 37.8%
male: 30%
female: 48.1% (2013 est.)


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


name: Kingston
geographic coordinates: 18 00 N, 76 48 W
time difference: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

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


6 August 1962 (from the UK)

National holiday

Emancipation Day, 1 August (1834); Independence Day, 6 August (1962)


several previous (preindependence); latest drafted 1961-62, submitted to British Parliament 24 July 1962, entered into force 6 August 1962 (at independence); amended many times, last in 2015 (2016)

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 by birth: yes
citizenship by descent: yes
dual citizenship recognized: yes
residency requirement for naturalization: 4 out of the previous 5 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Dr. 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 the Senate (21 seats; members appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the prime minister and the minority party leader, 13 seats allocated to the ruling party, and 8 seats allocated to the minority party; members serve 5-year terms) and the House of Representatives (63 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 5-year terms)
elections: last held on 29 December 2011 (next to be held no later than December 2016)
election results: percent of vote by party - PNP 53.3%, JLP 46.6%; seats by party - PNP 41, JLP 22

Judicial branch

highest resident court(s): 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 implemented 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 HOLNESS]
People's National Party or PNP [Portia SIMPSON-MILLER]
National Democratic Movement or NDM [Michael WILLIAMS]

Political pressure groups and leaders

New Beginnings Movement or NBM

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Ralph Samuel THOMAS (since 9 September 2015)
chancery: 1520 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
telephone: [1] (202) 452-0660
FAX: [1] (202) 452-0036
consulate(s) general: Miami, New York
consulate(s): Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Concord (MA), Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia (PA), Richmond (VA), San Francisco, Seattle

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Luis G. MORENO (since 13 January 2015)
embassy: 142 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6
mailing address: P.O. Box 541, Kingston 5
telephone: [1] (876) 702-6000
FAX: [1] (876) 702-6348

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 - overview

The Jamaican economy is heavily dependent on services, which accounts for more than 70% of GDP. The country continues to derive most of its foreign exchange from tourism, remittances, and bauxite/alumina. Remittances and tourism each account for 30% of GD

Jamaica's economy faces many challenges to growth: high crime and corruption, large-scale unemployment and underemployment, and a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 130%. The attendant debt servicing cost consumes a large portion of the government's budget, limit

Jamaica's onerous public debt burden is largely the result of government bailouts to ailing sectors of the economy, most notably the financial sector. In early 2010, the Jamaican Government initiated the Jamaica Debt Exchange to retire high-priced domesti

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$25.39 billion (2016 est.)
$25.01 billion (2015 est.)
$24.78 billion (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$13.78 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate

1.5% (2016 est.)
0.9% (2015 est.)
0.5% (2014 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$9,000 (2016 est.)
$8,900 (2015 est.)
$8,900 (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

Gross national saving

12.9% of GDP (2016 est.)
12% of GDP (2015 est.)
14.1% of GDP (2014 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 84.5%
government consumption: 14.8%
investment in fixed capital: 22.4%
investment in inventories: 0.5%
exports of goods and services: 33.9%
imports of goods and services: -56.1% (2016 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 6.7%
industry: 21.3%
services: 72% (2016 est.)

Agriculture - products

sugarcane, bananas, coffee, citrus, yams, ackees, vegetables; poultry, goats, milk; shellfish


tourism, bauxite/alumina, agricultural-processing, light manufactures, rum, cement, metal, paper, chemical products, telecommunications

Industrial production growth rate

1.7% (2016 est.)

Labor force

1.312 million (2016 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 17%
industry: 19%
services: 64% (2006)

Unemployment rate

13.8% (2016 est.)
14% (2015 est.)

Population below poverty line

16.5% (2009 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.1%
highest 10%: 35.8% (2004)

Distribution of family income - Gini index

45.5 (2004)
37.9 (2000)


revenues: $3.885 billion
expenditures: $4.033 billion (2016 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

28.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-1.1% of GDP (2016 est.)

Public debt

130.1% of GDP (2016 est.)
126.8% of GDP (2015 est.)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

2.5% (2016 est.)
3.7% (2015 est.)

Central bank discount rate

2% (31 December 2010)

Commercial bank prime lending rate

16.6% (31 December 2016 est.)
16.98% (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of narrow money

$3.567 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$3.542 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of broad money

$8.241 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$8.182 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of domestic credit

$6.995 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$6.881 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares

$6.39 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
$7.223 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
$6.626 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Current account balance

-$456 million (2016 est.)
-$484 million (2015 est.)


$1.278 billion (2016 est.)
$1.261 billion (2015 est.)

Exports - commodities

alumina, bauxite, sugar, rum, coffee, yams, beverages, chemicals, apparel, mineral fuels

Exports - partners

US 24.4%, Canada 16.5%, Russia 9.3%, Netherlands 8.9%, Iceland 7.2%, UK 6.5% (2015)


$3.772 billion (2016 est.)
$4.414 billion (2015 est.)

Imports - commodities

food and other consumer goods, industrial supplies, fuel, parts and accessories of capital goods, machinery and transport equipment, construction materials

Imports - partners

US 32.6%, Venezuela 12.4%, China 12%, Trinidad and Tobago 11.1% (2015)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$2.9 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$2.914 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Debt - external

$16.76 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$16.49 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Exchange rates

Jamaican dollars (JMD) per US dollar -
125.2 (2016 est.)
116.898 (2015 est.)
116.898 (2014 est.)
110.935 (2013 est.)
88.75 (2012 est.)


Electricity - access

population without electricity: 200,000
electrification - total population: 93%
electrification - urban areas: 98%
electrification - rural areas: 87% (2013)

Electricity - production

3.9 billion kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - consumption

2.8 billion kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - exports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity

1 million kW (2014 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

91.7% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants

2.5% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources

5.9% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - imports

23,360 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

0 bbl (1 January 2016 es)

Refined petroleum products - production

23,630 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption

53,000 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

4,526 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

33,970 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Natural gas - production

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves

0 cu m (1 January 2014 es)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

13 million Mt (2013 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 252,630
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 9 (July 2015 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total: 3.137 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 106 (July 2015 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: fully automatic domestic telephone network
domestic: the 1999 agreement to open the market for telecommunications services resulted in rapid growth in mobile-cellular telephone usage while the number of fixed lines in use has declined; combined fixed-line and mobile cellular teledensity exceeds 110 per 100
international: country code - 1-876; the Fibralink submarine cable network provides enhanced delivery of business and broadband traffic and is linked to the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) submarine cable in the Dominican Republic; the link to ARCOS-1 pr (2015)

Broadcast media

3 free-to-air TV stations, subscription cable services, and roughly 30 radio stations (2013)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 1.274 million
percent of population: 43.2% (July 2015 est.)


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 5
annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 92,836
annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 0 mt-km (2015)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

6Y (2016)


28 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 11
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 5 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 17
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 16 (2013)


total: 22,121 km (includes 44 km of expressways)
paved: 16,148 km
unpaved: 5,973 km (2011)

Merchant marine

total: 14
by type: bulk carrier 4, cargo 5, container 4, roll on/roll off 1
foreign-owned: 14 (Denmark 1, Germany 10, Greece 3) (2010)

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 (1,724,928)


Military branches

Jamaica Defense Force: Ground Forces, Coast Guard, Air Wing (2010)

Military service age and obligation

17 1/2 is the legal minimum age for voluntary military service; no conscription (2012)

Military expenditures

0.86% of GDP (2012)
0.92% of GDP (2011)
0.86% of GDP (2010)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international


Trafficking in persons

current situation: Jamaica is a source and destination country for children and adults subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor; sex trafficking of children and adults occurs on the street, in night clubs, bars, massage parlors, and private homes; child sex tourism is a problem in resort areas; Jamaicans have been subjected to sexual exploitation or forced labor in the Caribbean, Canada, the US, and the UK, while foreigners have endured conditions of forced labor in Jamaica or aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels operating in Jamaican waters; a high number of Jamaican children are reported missing
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – Jamaica does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; in 2014, the government made significant efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking, and named a national trafficking-in-persons rapporteur – the first in the region; authorities initiated more new trafficking investigations than in 2013 and concluded a trafficking case in the Supreme Court, but chronic delays impeded prosecutions and no offenders were convicted for the sixth consecutive year; more adult trafficking victims were identified than in previous years, but only one child victim was identified, which was exceptionally low relative to the number of vulnerable children (2015)

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