Around 100 of Fiji’s over 800 islands, atolls and reefs are inhabited. Moving from smaller islands to the main islands and cities is underway. More than two-thirds of the population lives on the largest island of Viti Levu. The population is young; over a quarter of the population is under 15 years of age.
As a term for a citizen of Fiji, regardless of ethnic origin, the word Fijian can be used. The majority of Fiji’s residents belong to one of two major groups: the indigenous population, that is, ethnic Fijians (whom we simply call Fijians) and Indians (Indo-Fijians) whose ancestors immigrated from the Indian Peninsula. There are also minorities of mainly European and Chinese descent.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Fiji, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
Fiji’s indigenous population has features of two major peoples and language groups in the South Sea: Melanesians and Polynesians. Nowadays, when the Fijians cultivate contacts with Melanesian neighbors in the west, they primarily see themselves as Melanesians. In ancient times, however, the Fijians emphasized their Polynesian features. Relations with the Polynesian islands of Tonga and Samoa in the east are of ancient date. Like Polynesian peoples, the Fijians have an aristocracy where the higher positions are inherited, and their chiefs have had more power and prestige than the chiefs of Melanesian societies.
A special indigenous people group is the Rotuman, a Polynesian people from the island of Rotuma. Of the 10,000 Rotumans in Fiji, only 2,000 remain on the isolated island north of the Fiji group.
Of the Indians, most of the descendants are plantation workers whom the British brought to Fiji around the turn of the last century. During the first decades of the 20th century, the Indian population grew rapidly, while the number of Fijians decreased. Between the 1940s and 1980s, the Indians were Fiji’s largest ethnic group.
Fijians and Indians co-existed mainly peacefully but in different worlds until the 1980s, when relations between the two groups deteriorated. Ethnic contradictions were an important factor behind the 1987, 2000 and 2006 coups (see Modern History). The two coups in 1987 started an extensive emigration among the Indians, especially among those with vocational education. Even a small but significant layer of highly educated Fijians left the country. Indians’ share of the population fell from almost half to just over 37 per cent in 20 years. At the same time, the share of Fiji increased, from 46 percent to 57 percent.
Fijians and Indians speak different languages (alongside the common English) and practice different religions. The majority of Fijians look up to their chiefs and identify with the traditions of village life, while the Indians mainly live in urban areas. Among the Indians there are more highly educated and economically successful, but at the same time many Indians live as relatively poor small farmers on land that they must not own but must lease from Fijian village collectives (see Agriculture and Fisheries).
The native language of Fiji, fiji or bauanfiji, also called itaukei (see below), has both Polynesian and Melanesian features. The name bauanfiji refers to the most regarded dialect, “fiji as it is spoken on the island of Bau”, thus a kind of national fiji. The Rotuman people have their own, related language, with many Polynesian loanwords. The Indians usually speak among themselves a dialect of Hindi (which in the constitution is called Hindustani).
Most residents of Fiji also speak English. There has been some concern for the English to take over completely. In 1997, for the first time, Fiji and Hindustani became official languages alongside English. The idea was to raise the status of languages.
In 2010, the government decided that everything concerning Fiji and their languages and institutions should be referred to as “itaukei” in laws and other official documents. The word really only means “native” and, according to those who have criticized the decision from a linguistic point of view, cannot be used loosely to just mark ethnic Fijian affiliation. It has also been feared to increase the tension between Fiji and Indians, contrary to what the government says it wants to achieve.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
ethnic Fijians 57%, Indians 38%, Europeans, Chinese and other 5% (Census 2007)
Number of residents
905 502 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
55.7 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
19.4 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
7.1 per 1000 residents (2016)
0.7 percent (2017)
2.5 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
49.2 percent (2017)
70 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
73 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
67 years (2016)
English, Fiji and “Hindustani” are official languages