French Polynesia - Population.

French Polynesia's population was estimated in 2000 at 249,110, with an annual growth rate of 1.78 percent. Comprehensive public health care has secured a long life expectancy—74.79 years at birth—and a low infant mortality rate—9.3 per 1,000 live births. The annual rate of immigration —3.14 per 1,000 of population—is accounted for mostly by French government officials and retirees. Those under 15 years of age make up 30 percent of the population, with 65 percent between 15 and 64 years of age. The remaining 5 percent are over 65 years of age.

The majority of the population (78 percent) is of Eastern Polynesian descent. They are closely related to the New Zealand Maoris, but quite distinct from the closer Western Polynesian Samoans and Tongans. Another 12 percent are of Chinese descent, and 10 percent French, of whom 6 percent are local French and 4 percent from France itself. These figures, however, conceal a considerable degree of racial mixture. Europeans, the majority of whom are French, are concentrated in Papeete. The Chinese, descendants of laborers imported in the 1860s to work Tahiti's short-lived cotton plantations, are scattered throughout the islands and run much of the

territory's retail trade. French Polynesians are 54 percent Protestant, 30 percent Roman Catholic, with 16 percent belonging to other religions. The official languages are French and Tahitian.

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