Australia-Oceania :: Marshall Islands
page last updated on August 3, 2010
Flag of Marshall Islands
Map of Marshall Islands
Introduction ::Marshall Islands
After almost four decades under US administration as the easternmost part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the Marshall Islands attained independence in 1986 under a Compact of Free Association. Compensation claims continue as a result of US nuclear testing on some of the atolls between 1947 and 1962. The Marshall Islands hosts the US Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) Reagan Missile Test Site, a key installation in the US missile defense network.
Geography ::Marshall Islands
Oceania, two archipelagic island chains of 29 atolls, each made up of many small islets, and five single islands in the North Pacific Ocean, about half way between Hawaii and Australia
Geographic coordinates:
9 00 N, 168 00 E
Map references:
total: 181 sq km
country comparison to the world: 216
land: 181 sq km
water: 0 sq km
note: the archipelago includes 11,673 sq km of lagoon waters and includes the atolls of Bikini, Enewetak, Kwajalein, Majuro, Rongelap, and Utirik
Area - comparative:
about the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries:
0 km
370.4 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Current Weather
tropical; hot and humid; wet season May to November; islands border typhoon belt
low coral limestone and sand islands
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location on Likiep 10 m
Natural resources:
coconut products, marine products, deep seabed minerals
Land use:
arable land: 11.11%
permanent crops: 44.44%
other: 44.45% (2005)
Irrigated land:
0 sq km
Natural hazards:
infrequent typhoons
Environment - current issues:
inadequate supplies of potable water; pollution of Majuro lagoon from household waste and discharges from fishing vessels
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
the islands of Bikini and Enewetak are former US nuclear test sites; Kwajalein atoll, famous as a World War II battleground, surrounds the world's largest lagoon and is used as a US missile test range; the island city of Ebeye is the second largest settlement in the Marshall Islands, after the capital of Majuro, and one of the most densely populated locations in the Pacific
People ::Marshall Islands
65,859 (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 203
Age structure:
0-14 years: 38.4% (male 12,894/female 12,415)
15-64 years: 58.6% (male 19,721/female 18,886)
65 years and over: 3% (male 943/female 1,000) (2010 est.)
Median age:
total: 21.5 years
male: 21.5 years
female: 21.5 years (2010 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.023% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 54
Birth rate:
29.94 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 45
Death rate:
4.42 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 199
Net migration rate:
-5.3 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 162
urban population: 71% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 2.7% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.94 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 24.57 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 87
male: 27.61 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 21.38 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 71.48 years
country comparison to the world: 131
male: 69.41 years
female: 73.65 years (2010 est.)
Total fertility rate:
3.51 children born/woman (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 50
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
noun: Marshallese (singular and plural)
adjective: Marshallese
Ethnic groups:
Marshallese 92.1%, mixed Marshallese 5.9%, other 2% (2006)
Protestant 54.8%, Assembly of God 25.8%, Roman Catholic 8.4%, Bukot nan Jesus 2.8%, Mormon 2.1%, other Christian 3.6%, other 1%, none 1.5% (1999 census)
Marshallese (official) 98.2%, other languages 1.8% (1999 census)
note: English (official), widely spoken as a second language
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93.7%
male: 93.6%
female: 93.7% (1999)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 13 years (2003)
Education expenditures:
11.8% of GDP (2004)
country comparison to the world: 3
Government ::Marshall Islands
Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of the Marshall Islands
conventional short form: Marshall Islands
local long form: Republic of the Marshall Islands
local short form: Marshall Islands
abbreviation: RMI
former: Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, Marshall Islands District
Government type:
constitutional government in free association with the US; the Compact of Free Association entered into force on 21 October 1986 and the Amended Compact entered into force in May 2004
name: Majuro
geographic coordinates: 7 06 N, 171 23 E
time difference: UTC+12 (17 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
33 municipalities; Ailinginae, Ailinglaplap, Ailuk, Arno, Aur, Bikar, Bikini, Bokak, Ebon, Enewetak, Erikub, Jabat, Jaluit, Jemo, Kili, Kwajalein, Lae, Lib, Likiep, Majuro, Maloelap, Mejit, Mili, Namorik, Namu, Rongelap, Rongrik, Toke, Ujae, Ujelang, Utirik, Wotho, Wotje
21 October 1986 (from the US-administered UN trusteeship)
National holiday:
Constitution Day, 1 May (1979)
1 May 1979
Legal system:
based on adapted Trust Territory laws, acts of the legislature, municipal, common, and customary laws; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Jurelang ZEDKAIA (since 2 November 2009); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Jurelang ZEDKAIA (since 2 November 2009)
cabinet: Cabinet selected by the president from among the members of the legislature
(For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
elections: president elected by Nitijela (legislature) from among its members for a four-year term; election last held on 7 January 2008 (next to be held in 2012)
election results: Litokwa TOMEING removed as president by no confidence vote on 21 October 2009; legislature elects ZEDKAIA president on 26 October 2009
Legislative branch:
unicameral legislature or Nitijela (33 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held on 19 November 2007 (next to be held by November 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - independents 4
note: the Council of Chiefs or Ironij is a 12-member body comprised of tribal chiefs that advises on matters affecting customary law and practice
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court; High Court; Traditional Rights Court
Political parties and leaders:
traditionally there have been no formally organized political parties; what has existed more closely resembles factions or interest groups because they do not have party headquarters, formal platforms, or party structures; the following two "groupings" have competed in legislative balloting in recent years - Aelon Kein Ad Party [Michael KABUA] and United Democratic Party or UDP [Litokwa TOMEING]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Banny DEBRUM
chancery: 2433 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 234-5414
FAX: [1] (202) 232-3236
consulate(s) general: Honolulu
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Martha L. CAMPBELL
embassy: Oceanside, Mejen Weto, Long Island, Majuro
mailing address: P. O. Box 1379, Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands 96960-1379
telephone: [692] 247-4011
FAX: [692] 247-4012
Flag description:
blue with two stripes radiating from the lower hoist-side corner - orange (top) and white; a white star with four large rays and 20 small rays appears on the hoist side above the two stripes; blue represents the Pacific Ocean, the orange stripe signifies the Ralik Chain or sunset and courage, while the white stripe signifies the Ratak Chain or sunrise and peace; the star symbolizes the cross of Christianity, each of the 24 rays designates one of the electoral districts in the country and the four larger rays highlight the principal cultural centers of Majuro, Jaluit, Wotje, and Ebeye; the rising diagonal band can also be interpreted as representing the equator, with the star showing the archipelago's position just to the north
Economy ::Marshall Islands
Economy - overview:
US Government assistance is the mainstay of this tiny island economy. The Marshall Islands received more than $1 billion in aid from the US from 1986-2002. Agricultural production, primarily subsistence, is concentrated on small farms; the most important commercial crops are coconuts and breadfruit. Small-scale industry is limited to handicrafts, tuna processing, and copra. The tourist industry, now a small source of foreign exchange employing less than 10% of the labor force, remains the best hope for future added income. The islands have few natural resources, and imports far exceed exports. Under the terms of the Amended Compact of Free Association, the US will provide millions of dollars per year to the Marshall Islands (RMI) through 2023, at which time a Trust Fund made up of US and RMI contributions will begin perpetual annual payouts. Government downsizing, drought, a drop in construction, the decline in tourism, and less income from the renewal of fishing vessel licenses have held GDP growth to an average of 1% over the past decade.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$133.5 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 218
$115 million (2001 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$161.7 million (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
-0.3% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 114
3.5% (2005 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$2,500 (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 176
$2,900 (2005 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 31.7%
industry: 14.9%
services: 53.4% (2004 est.)
Labor force:
14,680 (2000)
country comparison to the world: 211
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 21.4%
industry: 20.9%
services: 57.7% (2000)
Unemployment rate:
36% (2006 est.)
country comparison to the world: 184
30.9% (2000 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
revenues: $123.3 million
expenditures: $1.213 billion (2008)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
12.9% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 207
3% (2005 est.)
Agriculture - products:
coconuts, tomatoes, melons, taro, breadfruit, fruits; pigs, chickens
copra, tuna processing, tourism, craft items (from seashells, wood, and pearls)
Industrial production growth rate:
$19.4 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 205
$9.1 million (2000 est.)
Exports - commodities:
copra cake, coconut oil, handicrafts, fish
$79.4 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 212
$54.7 million (2000 est.)
Imports - commodities:
foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, fuels, beverages and tobacco
Debt - external:
$87 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 180
$86.5 million (FY99/00 est.)
Exchange rates:
the US dollar is used
Communications ::Marshall Islands
Telephones - main lines in use:
4,400 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 215
Telephones - mobile cellular:
1,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 219
Telephone system:
general assessment: digital switching equipment; modern services include telex, cellular, Internet, international calling, caller ID, and leased data circuits
domestic: Majuro Atoll and Ebeye and Kwajalein islands have regular, seven-digit, direct-dial telephones; other islands interconnected by high frequency radiotelephone (used mostly for government purposes) and mini-satellite telephones
international: country code - 692; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean); US Government satellite communications system on Kwajalein (2005)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 3, shortwave 0 (additionally, the American Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (Central Pacific Network) operates one FM and one AM station on Kwajalein Island) (2005)
Television broadcast stations:
2 (both are US military stations; Marshalls Broadcasting Service, a cable company, operates on Majuro) (2005)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
6 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 224
Internet users:
2,200 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 208
Transportation ::Marshall Islands
15 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 146
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2009)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 11
914 to 1,523 m: 10
under 914 m: 1 (2009)
total: 2,028 km (includes 75 km of expressways) (2007)
country comparison to the world: 174
Merchant marine:
total: 1,049
country comparison to the world: 10
by type: barge carrier 1, bulk carrier 284, cargo 71, carrier 1, chemical tanker 191, combination ore/oil 4, container 188, liquefied gas 47, passenger 5, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 221, refrigerated cargo 13, roll on/roll off 14, specialized tanker 2, vehicle carrier 6
foreign-owned: 956 (Australia 2, Bermuda 4, Brazil 1, Canada 5, Chile 4, China 6, Croatia 6, Cyprus 38, Denmark 16, Germany 224, Greece 265, Hong Kong 5, Iceland 3, Indonesia 1, Isle of Man 1, Italy 4, Japan 8, Latvia 15, Malaysia 3, Mexico 2, Monaco 12, Netherlands 8, Norway 66, Romania 1, Russia 7, Saudi Arabia 5, Singapore 18, Slovenia 3, South Korea 10, Spain 1, Sweden 1, Switzerland 13, Taiwan 1, Turkey 45, UAE 15, UK 7, UK 10, US 120) (2009)
Ports and terminals:
Military ::Marshall Islands
Military branches:
no regular military forces; under the 1983 Compact of Free Association, the US has full authority and responsibility for security and defense of the Marshall Islands; Marshall Islands Police (2009)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 16,138 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 13,277
females age 16-49: 13,374 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 602
female: 580 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
Military - note:
defense is the responsibility of the US
Transnational Issues ::Marshall Islands
Disputes - international:
claims US territory of Wake Island

Source: The World Factbook (CIA)