Overview

More than half of Fiji's population lives on the island coasts, either in Suva or in smaller urban centers. The interior is sparsely populated due to its rough terrain.

Indigenous Fijians are a mixture of Polynesian and Melanesian, resulting from the original migrations to the South Pacific many centuries ago. The Indo-Fijian population has grown rapidly from the 60,000 indentured laborers brought from India between 1879 and 1916 to work in the sugarcane fields. Thousands more Indians migrated voluntarily in the 1920s and 1930s and formed the core of Fiji's business class. The native Fijians live throughout the country, while the Indo-Fijians reside primarily near the urban centers and in the cane-producing areas of the two main islands. Nearly all of the indigenous Fijians are Christian; more than three-quarters are Methodist. Approximately 80% of the Indo-Fijians are Hindu, 15% are Muslim, and most of the rest are Sikh, while a few are Christian.

Some Indo-Fijians have been displaced by the expiration of land leases in cane-producing areas and have moved into urban centers in pursuit of jobs. Similarly, a number of indigenous Fijians have moved into urban areas, especially Suva, in search of a better life. Meanwhile, the Indo-Fijian population has declined due to emigration and a declining birth rate. Indo-Fijians currently constitute 40% of the total population, down from over 50% in the 1940s. However, Indo-Fijians dominate the professions and commerce.

People

Nationality: Noun--Fiji Islander; adjective--Fiji or Fijian.*
Population (2002 est.): 824,596.
Age structure: 33% under 15; 4% over 65.
Growth rate: 0.8%.
Ethnic groups: Indigenous Fijian 54%, Indo-Fijian 40%.
Religion: Christian 52% (Methodist and Roman Catholic), Hindu 33%, Muslim 7%.
Languages: English (official), Fijian, Hindi.
Education: Literacy--93%.
Health: Life expectancy--male 64.5 years; female 68.7. Infant mortality rate--16.3/1,000.
Work force: Agriculture--67%.

*The term "Fijian" has exclusively ethnic connotations and should not be used to describe any thing or person not of indigenous Fijian descent.