Facts about Tuvalu

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In 1974, ethnic differences within the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands caused the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to vote for separation from the Micronesians of the Gilbert Islands. The following year, the Ellice Islands became the separate British colony of Tuvalu. Independence was granted in 1978. In 2000, Tuvalu negotiated a contract leasing its Internet domain name ".tv" for $50 million in royalties over the next dozen years.

Geography of Tuvalu

Oceania, island group consisting of nine coral atolls in the South Pacific Ocean, about one-half of the way from Hawaii to Australia
8 00 S, 178 00 E
total: 26 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 26 sq km
Area comparative:
0.1 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries:
0 km
24 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
tropical; moderated by easterly trade winds (March to November); westerly gales and heavy rain (November to March)
very low-lying and narrow coral atolls
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 5 m
Natural resources:
Natural hazards:
severe tropical storms are usually rare, but, in 1997, there were three cyclones; low level of islands make them very sensitive to changes in sea level
Environment current issues:
since there are no streams or rivers and groundwater is not potable, most water needs must be met by catchment systems with storage facilities (the Japanese Government has built one desalination plant and plans to build one other); beachhead erosion because of the use of sand for building materials; excessive clearance of forest undergrowth for use as fuel; damage to coral reefs from the spread of the Crown of Thorns starfish; Tuvalu is very concerned about global increases in greenhouse gas emissions and their effect on rising sea levels, which threaten the country's underground water table; in 2000, the government appealed to Australia and New Zealand to take in Tuvaluans if rising sea levels should make evacuation necessary
Geography - note:
one of the smallest and most remote countries on Earth; six of the coral atolls - Nanumea, Nui, Vaitupu, Nukufetau, Funafuti, and Nukulaelae - have lagoons open to the ocean; Nanumaya and Niutao have landlocked lagoons; Niulakita does not have a lagoon

Population of Tuvalu

12,177 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 30.2% (male 1,819/female 1,752)
15-64 years: 64.7% (male 3,715/female 3,923)
65 years and over: 5.1% (male 228/female 373)
Median age:
24.6 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
19.47 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 68.32 years
male: 66.08 years
female: 70.66 years
Fertility rate:
2.98 children born/woman
noun: Tuvaluan(s)
adjective: Tuvaluan
Ethnic groups:
Polynesian 96%, Micronesian 4%
Church of Tuvalu (Congregationalist) 97%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1.4%, Baha'i 1%, other 0.6%
Tuvaluan, English, Samoan, Kiribati (on the island of Nui)


Country name:
conventional short form: Tuvalu
note: "Tuvalu" means "group of eight," referring to the country's eight traditionally inhabited islands
former: Ellice Islands
Government type:
constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy; began debating republic status in 1992
Funafuti; note - administrative offices are located in Vaiaku Village on Fongafale Islet
1 October 1978 (from UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 1 October (1978)
1 October 1978
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II, represented by Governor General Filoimea TELITO
head of government: Prime Minister Apisai IELEMIA
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the prime minister
elections: the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister; prime minister and deputy prime minister elected by and from the members of Parliamen
Legislative branch:
unicameral Parliament or Fale I Fono, also called House of Assembly (15 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
Judicial branch:
High Court (a chief justice visits twice a year to preside over its sessions; its rulings can be appealed to the Court of Appeal in Fiji); eight Island Courts (with limited jurisdiction)


Tuvalu consists of a densely populated, scattered group of nine coral atolls with poor soil. The country has no known mineral resources and few exports. Subsistence farming and fishing are the primary economic activities. Fewer than 1,000 tourists, on average, visit Tuvalu annually. Job opportunities are scarce and public sector workers make up the majority of those employed. About 15% of the adult male population work as seamen on merchant ships abroad and remittances are a vital source of income, contributing around $4 million in 2006. Substantial income is received annually from the Tuvalu Trust Fund (TTF), an international trust fund established in 1987 by Australia, NZ, and the UK and supported also by Japan and South Korea. Thanks to wise investments and conservative withdrawals, this fund grew from an initial $17 million to an estimated value of $77 million in 2006. The TFF contributed nearly $9 million towards the government budget in 2006 and is an important cushion for meeting shortfalls in the government's budget. The US Government is also a major revenue source for Tuvalu because of payments from a 1988 treaty on fisheries. In an effort to ensure financial stability and sustainability, the government is pursuing public sector reforms, including privatization of some government functions and personnel cuts. Tuvalu also derives royalties from the lease of its ".tv" Internet domain name, with revenue of more than $2 million in 2006. A minor source of government revenue comes from the sale of stamps and coins. With merchandise exports only a fraction of merchandise imports, continued reliance must be placed on fishing and telecommunications license fees, remittances from overseas workers, official transfers, and income from overseas investments. Growing income disparities and the vulnerability of the country to climatic change are among leading concerns for the nation.

$14.94 million (2002 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
Labor force - by occupation:
people make a living mainly through exploitation of the sea, reefs, and atolls and from wages sent home by those abroad (mostly workers in the phosphate industry and sailors)
revenues: $22.5 million
expenditures: $11.2 million, including capital expenditures of $4.2 million
fishing, tourism, copra
coconuts; fish
copra, fish
Export partners:
Italy 54.1%, Fiji 19.5%, Finland 7.3%, Ghana 4.1%
food, animals, mineral fuels, machinery, manufactured goods
Import partners:
Fiji 47%, Japan 18.4%, China 17.7%, Australia 8.9%, NZ 4.8%
Australian dollar (AUD); note - there is also a Tuvaluan dollar

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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