TimorLeste People - 2021


GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES  Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese


1,413,958 (July 2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 155


noun: Timorese

adjective: Timorese

Ethnic groups

Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) (includes Tetun, Mambai, Tokodede, Galoli, Kemak, Baikeno), Melanesian-Papuan (includes Bunak, Fataluku, Bakasai), small Chinese minority


Tetun Prasa 30.6%, Mambai 16.6%, Makasai 10.5%, Tetun Terik 6.1%, Baikenu 5.9%, Kemak 5.8%, Bunak 5.5%, Tokodede 4%, Fataluku 3.5%, Waima'a 1.8%, Galoli 1.4%, Naueti 1.4%, Idate 1.2%, Midiki 1.2%, other 4.5% (2015 est.)

note: data represent population by mother tongue; Tetun and Portuguese are official languages; Indonesian and English are working languages; there are about 32 indigenous languages


Roman Catholic 97.6%, Protestant/Evangelical 2%, Muslim 0.2%, other 0.2% (2015 est.)

Demographic profile

Timor-Leste’s high fertility and population growth rates sustain its very youthful age structure – approximately 40% of the population is below the age of 15 and the country’s median age is 20.  While Timor-Leste’s total fertility rate (TFR) – the average number of births per woman – decreased significantly from over 7 in the early 2000s, it remains high at 4.3 in 2021 and will probably continue to decline slowly.  The low use of contraceptives and the traditional preference for large families is keeping fertility elevated.  The high TFR and falling mortality rates continue to fuel a high population growth rate of nearly 2.2%, which is the highest in Southeast Asia.  The country’s high total dependency ratio – a measure of the ratio of dependents to the working-age population – could divert more government spending toward social programs. Timor-Leste’s growing, poorly educated working-age population and insufficient job creation are ongoing problems.  Some 70% of the population lives in rural areas, where most of people are dependent on the agricultural sector.  Malnutrition and poverty are prevalent, with 42% of the population living under the poverty line as of 2014.

During the Indonesian occupation (1975-1999) and Timor-Leste’s fight for independence, approximately 250,000 Timorese fled to western Timor and, in lesser numbers, Australia, Portugal, and other countries. Many of these emigrants later returned.  Since Timor-Leste’s 1999 independence referendum, economic motives and periods of conflict have been the main drivers of emigration.  Bilateral labor agreements with Australia, Malaysia, and South Korea and the presence of Timorese populations abroad, are pull factors, but the high cost prevents many young Timorese from emigrating.  Timorese communities are found in its former colonizers, Indonesia and Portugal, as well as the Philippines and the UK.  The country has also become a destination for migrants in the surrounding region, mainly men seeking work in construction, commerce, and services in Dili.

Age structure

0-14 years: 39.96% (male 284,353/female 268,562)

15-24 years: 20.32% (male 142,693/female 138,508)

25-54 years: 30.44% (male 202,331/female 218,914)

55-64 years: 5.22% (male 34,956/female 37,229)

65 years and over: 4.06% (male 27,153/female 29,024) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 90.3

youth dependency ratio: 83.7

elderly dependency ratio: 6.6

potential support ratio: 15.2 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 19.6 years

male: 18.9 years

female: 20.2 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 200

Population growth rate

2.19% (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 35

Birth rate

31.45 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 27

Death rate

5.67 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 175

Net migration rate

-3.84 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 190

Population distribution

most of the population concentrated in the western third of the country, particularly around Dili


urban population: 31.7% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 3.31% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

281,000 DILI (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.92 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.94 male(s)/female

total population: 1 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

23 years (2016 est.)

note: median age at first birth among women 25-49

Maternal mortality rate

142 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 60

Infant mortality rate

total: 34.47 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 37.85 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 30.86 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 48

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 69.62 years

male: 67.94 years

female: 71.41 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 174

Total fertility rate

4.32 children born/woman (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 24

Contraceptive prevalence rate

26.1% (2016)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 72.3% of population

total: 80.7% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 27.7% of population

total: 19.3% of population (2017 est.)

Current Health Expenditure

4.3% (2018)

Physicians density

0.72 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 90.9% of population

rural: 50.3% of population

total: 62.6% of population

unimproved: urban: 9.1% of population

rural: 49.7% of population

total: 57.4% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

0.2% (2020)

country comparison to the world: 116

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

1,200 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 144

HIV/AIDS - deaths

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

3.8% (2016)

country comparison to the world: 190

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

37.5% (2013)

country comparison to the world: 2

Education expenditures

6.8% of GDP (2018)

country comparison to the world: 17


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 68.1%

male: 71.9%

female: 64.2% (2018)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 13 years

male: 14 years

female: 13 years (2010)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 13.2%

male: 10.9%

female: 15.9% (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 106

People - note

one of only two predominantly Christian nations in Southeast Asia, the other being the Philippines

NOTE: The information regarding TimorLeste on this page is re-published from the 2021 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of TimorLeste 2021 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about TimorLeste 2021 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 16 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.