Demographics of East Timor

Demographics of East Timor
East Timor demographic change.png

This article is about the demographic features of the population of East Timor, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.


CIA World Factbook demographic statistics

The following demographic statistics are from the CIA World Factbook 2002.


952,618 (July 2002 est.)

note: other estimates range as low as 800,000 (2002 est.)

Age structure

Population growth rate

3.91% (2006 est.)

Birth rate

46.07 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)

Death rate

6.52 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)

Net migration rate

51.07 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)

Sex ratio


Infant mortality rate

51.99 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 64.85 years
male: 62.64 years
female: 67.17 years (2002 est.)

Total fertility rate

7.48 children born/woman


adult prevalence rate: NA
people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
deaths: NA


noun: Timorese
adjective: Timorese

Ethnic groups

Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian), Papuan, small Chinese and European Portuguese descent.


Roman Catholic 98%, Muslim 1%, Protestant 3%, Hindu 0.5%, Buddhist, Animist (1992 est.) The Timorese government reports[1] that most Christians continue to practice animist traditions. A minority, called serani, do not. (Main article: Religion in East Timor).


Tetum (official), Portuguese (official), Indonesian (constitutionally defined as a 'working language') and English ((constitutionally defined as a 'working language')).

note: there are a total of about 16 indigenous languages, of which Tetum, Galole, Mambae, and Kemak are spoken by significant numbers of people. The Tetum language is partially influenced by European languages introduced to the island for over 400 years.


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 48% (2001)
male: NA%
female: NA%

After achieving independence, Timor-Leste has a high illiteracy rate, with 55% of women and 46% of men illiterate. Only 18% of the adult population has secondary education and only 1.4% of them have higher education. Attempts to improve education services face challenges in the form of a lack of educated and experienced teachers. Continuing high fertility rates also translates to greater strains on the government to increase education budgets. The United Nations (UN) has assisted in rebuilding the education system increasing the number of teachers and rehabilitating many schools, leading to a rapid increase in school enrollment. However, problems remain as the quality of education was deemed secondary to the need to increase enrollment in East Timor.

Another problem faced in increasing the education levels includes the economic conditions of the population. With high proportions of the population living below the poverty line and large households with many children, the direct costs of schooling is significant for families. Lack of monetary resources to send children to school imposes greater difficulty in increasing enrollment rates in schools.. In addition, parents may be disillusioned with the poor quality of education and thus may not even be interested to send their children to schools. Much remains to be done to establish a new curriculum and support it with texts and learning materials to improve the quality of education. The variety of language spoken also means a large number of children do not speak the language of instruction – Portuguese – and this causes them to be marginalized.

The inaccessibility of schools with proper facilities adds to the problem of providing adequate education to the population. Schools are located far away from homes and, coupled with the poor conditions of schools, may inhibit the early enrollment of children or lead to early drop-outs. Schools in rural areas face substantial lack of facilities to render them safe. As for the schools in urban areas, significant urban migration has meant that the supply of schools in urban areas have not managed to keep up with the increasing demand; leading to overcrowding in urban schools..

Besides the problems faced at the level of the individual households and the schools, problems in the governance and management of education are also significant impediments to raising education levels in East Timor. The lack of qualified personnel in critical positions within the education ministry has meant that overall policy making, planning and management functions are restricted. Management of schools at the district level is often under-qualified due to the lack of formal training. Today therefore, East Timor faces many challenges in increasing the literacy rates of their people.

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