Nauru Population, Economy and History

By | November 3, 2021

Population and Religion


The vast majority of the population consists of Nauruians (Micronesians with Melanesian and Polynesian influences as defined on COUNTRYAAH). The remaining residents, mainly from Kiribati and Tuvalu, but also from Hong Kong, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, are mostly employed in phosphate mining or recruited for other skilled jobs and their descendants. Many of them were returned to their homeland after phosphate mining declined. The migration rate for 2017 was given as -12.8 per 1,000 residents. With 682 residents / km 2, the island is very densely populated. The population lives in the narrow coastal strip and is mainly concentrated in the southwest, in the area of ​​the seat of government Yaren as well as south and north of the ship loading point.

Social: Until 2001, medical treatment was free. As a result of poor nutrition and a lack of exercise, more than a third of the islanders now suffer from diabetes (highest diabetes rate worldwide).


The constitution guarantees freedom of religion; all religious communities are legally equal. – Over 60% of the population belong to Protestant denominations, around 33% to the Catholic Church (Diocese of Tarawa and Nauru in Kiribati). Buddhists, Baha’is and followers of Chinese folk religions are non-Christian religious minorities.



Until the 1980s, Nauru was one of the richest countries in the world in terms of per capita income. The economic prosperity was based on the export (especially to Australia and New Zealand) of the high-quality phosphate rock, which has been mined on the island since 1906. Since the deposits are limited, mining has been severely throttled since the 1990s, and even stopped entirely for a few years in 2003.

Waste and misinvestment in managing export earnings led to economic decline. The attempt to establish the island state as an offshore banking center also failed. In the meantime, Nauru is almost entirely dependent on foreign financial allocations (especially from Australia, especially as compensation for running a refugee camp). In addition, the country generates modest income from the technologically complex secondary phosphate mining (no more open-cast mining) and the sale of fishing licenses. In the future, fishing is to be expanded and agricultural areas are to be created by renaturing the dismantled phosphate fields. So far, only a narrow strip along the coast has been used for agriculture and a small number of coconut palms, bananas, pineapples and vegetables have been grown.


Around the island there is an approximately 16 km long coastal road. Nauru has no port; Cargo ships have to anchor in the deep water off the coast and are loaded and unloaded via special conveyors. There is an airport near the capital, Yaren.


Discovered in 1798 by the British navigator John Fearn (* 1768, † 1837) and initially Pleasant Island called Nauru was taken into possession of Germany in 1888 (connection to the protected area Marshall Islands). The Protestant mission began here in 1899 and the Catholic mission in 1903. From 1906 the phosphate deposits were mined (initially by a British company in conjunction with the German Jaluit company). Occupied by Australian troops in 1914, Nauru was administered from 1920 as a mandate of the League of Nations of Australia with the participation of Great Britain and New Zealand. During the Japanese occupation (1942–45), large parts of the population were deported to labor camps on the Micronesian island of Truk (death of hundreds of Nauruians); Returned in 1946. Administered by Australia as a UN trust territory from 1947, Nauru gained its independence on January 31, 1968. First president was Hammer DeRoburt (* 1922, † 1992; in office until 1989 with interruptions). The DPN, founded in 1987, was supposed to be v. a. limit the power of the president. In 1989, Nauru sued Australia at the International Court of Justice in The Hague for reparation for the damage it had caused in Nauru’s phosphate mining as a mandate power; In 1993 there was an out-of-court settlement (agreement on the payment of $ 107 million by Australia for the renaturation of the island). In 1999 Nauru was admitted to the UN and a full member of the Commonwealth.

Given the inadequate anti-money laundering was Nauru since 1999, under increasing international pressure and in 2002 – led 03 of the OECD on a list of “uncooperative tax havens”. After its phosphate reserves were exhausted (2003/04), the once prosperous island found itself in an extremely problematic financial situation, accompanied by growing political instability (including frequent changes of government). The President of the Republic Marcus Stephen (* 1969), who has been in office since 2007, resigned in November 2011 following allegations of corruption. His successor on November 10, 2011 was initially Frederick Pitcher (* 1967). Already on November 15, 2011 he lost his new office due to a vote of no confidence by the opposition in Sprent Dabwido (* 1972). After the elections on June 8, 2013, the new parliament elected B. Waqa as President on June 11, 2013. After the regular elections on July 9, 2016, to which international observers were again admitted for the first time in 12 years, the newly elected parliament confirmed Waqa in office on July 13, 2016. An important source of income for the country was the payments made by Australia for an Offshore Processing Center set up on Nauru, where boat refugees who want to go to Australia are being brought in a controversial practice and whose accommodation and treatment have provoked international criticism. In the general election of August 2019, Lionel Aingimea was elected as the new President of Nauru.

Nauru History