The Gilbert Islands became a British protectorate in 1892 and a colony in 1915; they were captured by the Japanese in the Pacific War in 1941. The islands of Makin and Tarawa were the sites of major US amphibious victories over entrenched Japanese garrisons in 1943. The Gilbert Islands were granted self-rule by the UK in 1971 and complete independence in 1979 under the new name of Kiribati. The US relinquished all claims to the sparsely inhabited Phoenix and Line Island groups in a 1979 treaty of friendship with Kiribati.



Oceania, group of 33 coral atolls 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

Map references



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)

Area - comparative

four times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

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


mean elevation: NA
elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed elevation on Banaba 81 m

Natural resources

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

Land use

agricultural land: 42%
arable land 2.5%; permanent crops 39.5%; permanent pasture 0%
forest: 15%
other: 43% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2012)

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

Environment - current issues

heavy pollution in lagoon of south Tarawa atoll due to heavy migration mixed with traditional practices such as lagoon latrines and open-pit dumping; ground water at risk

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

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


106,925 (July 2016 est.)


noun: I-Kiribati (singular and plural)
adjective: I-Kiribati

Ethnic groups

I-Kiribati 89.5%, I-Kiribati/mixed 9.7%, Tuvaluan 0.1%, other 0.8% (2010 est.)


I-Kiribati, English (official)


Roman Catholic 55.8%, Kempsville Presbyterian Church 33.5%, Mormon 4.7%, Baha'i 2.3%, Seventh Day Adventist 2%, other 1.5%, none 0.2%, unspecified 0.05% (2010 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 30.16% (male 16,438/female 15,814)
15-24 years: 21.26% (male 11,285/female 11,447)
25-54 years: 38.59% (male 19,863/female 21,397)
55-64 years: 5.86% (male 2,827/female 3,436)
65 years and over: 4.13% (male 1,741/female 2,677) (2016 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 63%
youth dependency ratio: 57%
elderly dependency ratio: 6%
potential support ratio: 16.6% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 24.3 years
male: 23.4 years
female: 25.1 years (2016 est.)

Population growth rate

1.14% (2016 est.)

Birth rate

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

Death rate

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

Net migration rate

-2.9 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)


urban population: 44.3% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 1.78% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

TARAWA (capital) 46,000 (2014)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.93 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.82 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.65 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

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

Infant mortality rate

total: 33.2 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 34.4 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 31.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 66.2 years
male: 63.7 years
female: 68.8 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

2.43 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

22.3% (2009)

Health expenditures

10.2% of GDP (2014)

Physicians density

0.38 physicians/1,000 population (2010)

Hospital bed density

1.3 beds/1,000 population (2011)

Drinking water source

urban: 87.3% of population
rural: 50.6% of population
total: 66.9% of population
urban: 12.7% of population
rural: 49.4% of population
total: 33.1% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

urban: 51.2% of population
rural: 30.6% of population
total: 39.7% of population
urban: 48.8% of population
rural: 69.4% of population
total: 60.3% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate


HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS - deaths


Obesity - adult prevalence rate

40.1% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

14.9% (2009)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 12 years
male: 11 years
female: 12 years (2008)

Mother's mean age at first birth

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2009 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 54%
male: 47.6%
female: 61.8% (2010 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Kiribati
conventional short form: Kiribati
local long form: Republic of Kiribati
local short form: Kiribati
note: pronounced keer-ree-bahss
former: Gilbert Islands
etymology: the name is the local pronounciation of "Gilberts," the former designation of the islands; originally named after explorer Thomas GILBERT, who mapped many of the islands in 1788

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)
note: on 1 January 1995, Kiribati proclaimed that all of its territory was in the same time zone as its Gilbert Islands group (UTC +12) even though the Phoenix Islands and the Line Islands under its jurisdiction were on the other side of the International Date Line

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)


The Gilbert and Ellice Islands Order in Council 1915, The Gilbert Islands Order in Council 1975 (preindependence); latest promulgated 12 July 1979 (at independence); amended 1995, 2013 (2016)

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); Vice President Kourabi NENEM (since 17 March 2016); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Taneti MAAMAU (since 11 March 2016); Vice President Kourabi NENEM (since 17 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; term is 4 years (eligible for 2 additional terms); election last held on 13 January 2012 (next to be held in 2015); vice president appointed by the president
election results: Taneti MAAMAU elected president; percent of vote - Taneti MAAMAU 60%, Rimeta BENIAMINA (BTK) 38.5%, Taneti IOANE (BTK) 1.5%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral House of Assembly or Maneaba Ni Maungatabu (46 seats; 44 members directly elected in single- and multi-seat constituencies by absolute majority vote in two-rounds, 1 member appointed by the Rabi Council of Leaders - representing Banaba Island, and 1 ex officio member - the attorney general; members serve 4-year terms)
elections: legislative elections were held in two rounds - the first on 21 October 2011 and the second on 28 October 2011 (next to be held in 2015)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA, other 2 (includes attorney general)

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 Te Koaua Party or BTK [Anote TONG]
Kamaeuraoan Te I-Kiribati Party or KTK [Tetaua TAITAI]
Maurin Kiribati Pati or MKP [Rimeta BENIAMINA]

note: there is no tradition of formally organized political parties in Kiribati; they more closely resemble factions or interest groups because they have no party headquarters, formal platforms, or party structures

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

none; the Kiribati Permanent Mission to the UN serves as the Embassy; it is headed by Makurita BAARO (since 21 May 2014); address: 800 Second Avenue, Suite 400A, New York, NY 10017; telephone: [1](212)867-3310; FAX: [1](212)867-3320
note: there is an honorary consulate in Honolulu

Diplomatic representation from the US

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

National symbol(s)

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

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 anthem

name: "Teirake kaini Kiribati" (Stand Up, Kiribati)
lyrics/music: Urium Tamuera IOTEBA
note: adopted 1979


Economy - overview

A remote country of 33 scattered coral atolls, Kiribati has few natural resources and is one of the least developed Pacific Island countries. Commercially viable phosphate deposits were exhausted by the time of independence from the United Kingdom in 1979

Economic development is constrained by a shortage of skilled workers, weak infrastructure, and remoteness from international markets. The public sector dominates economic activity, with ongoing capital projects in infrastructure including the road rehabil

Kiribati is dependent on foreign aid, which was estimated to have contributed over 43% in 2013 to the government’s finances. The country’s sovereign fund, the Revenue Equalization Reserve Fund (RERF), which is held offshore, had an estimated balance of $6

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$211 million (2016 est.)
$204.7 million (2015 est.)
$197.8 million (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$166 million (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate

3.1% (2016 est.)
3.5% (2015 est.)
2.4% (2014 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$1,800 (2016 est.)
$1,800 (2015 est.)
$1,800 (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 26.3%
industry: 9.2%
services: 64.5% (2012 est.)

Agriculture - products

copra, breadfruit, fish


fishing, handicrafts

Industrial production growth rate

1.1% (2012 est.)

Labor force

note: economically active, not including subsistence farmers (2010 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 15%
industry: 10%
services: 75% (2010)

Unemployment rate

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

Population below poverty line


Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%


revenues: $197.9 million
expenditures: $179.9 million (2013 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

119.2% of GDP (2013 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

10.8% of GDP (2013 est.)

Public debt

8.6% of GDP (2013 est.)
8% of GDP (2012 est.)

Fiscal year


Inflation rate (consumer prices)

1.5% (2016 est.)
0.6% (2015 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares


Current account balance

-$12 million (2016 est.)
$72 million (2015 est.)


$84.75 million (2013 est.)
$62.31 million (2012 est.)

Exports - commodities

fish, coconut products


$182.2 million (2013 est.)
$172.5 million (2012 est.)

Imports - commodities

food, machinery and equipment, miscellaneous manufactured goods, fuel

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$8.37 million (31 December 2010 est.)

Debt - external

$13.6 million (2013 est.)
$14.1 million (2012 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home


Exchange rates

Australian dollars (AUD) per US dollar -
1.352 (2016 est.)
1.3291 (2015 est.)
1.3291 (2014 est.)
0.9695 (2013 est.)
0.9695 (2012 est.)
note:: the Australian dollar circulates as legal tender


Electricity - access

population without electricity: 43,839
electrification - total population: 59%
electrification - urban areas: 77%
electrification - rural areas: 45% (2012)

Electricity - production

30 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - consumption

27.9 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - exports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity

7,000 kW (2014 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

100% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources

0% 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

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

0 bbl (1 January 2016 es)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption

400 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

509.6 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

58,450 Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 1,477
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1 (July 2015 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total: 41,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 39 (July 2015 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: generally good quality national and international service
domestic: wireline service available on Tarawa and Kiritimati (Christmas Island); connections to outer islands by HF/VHF radiotelephone; wireless service available in Tarawa since 1999
international: country code - 686; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) (2015)

Broadcast media

1 TV broadcast station that provides about 1 hour of local programming Monday-Friday; multi-channel TV packages provide access to Australian and US stations; 1 government-operated radio station broadcasts on AM, FM, and shortwave (2009)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 14,000
percent of population: 13% (July 2015 est.)


Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

T3 (2016)


19 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 15
914 to 1,523 m: 10
under 914 m: 5 (2013)


total: 670 km (2011)


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

Merchant marine

total: 77
by type: bulk carrier 7, cargo 35, chemical tanker 6, passenger 1, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 12, refrigerated cargo 15
foreign-owned: 43 (China 26, Hong Kong 2, Russia 1, Singapore 9, South Korea 1, Taiwan 2, Vietnam 2) (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Betio (Tarawa Atoll), Canton Island, English Harbor


Military branches

no regular military forces (establishment prevented by the constitution); Police Force (2011)

Military - note

Kiribati does not have military forces; defense assistance is provided by Australia and NZ

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international