Of the nation's inhabitants (not including persons employed outside of Tuvalu), only about 1,500 are formally employed. The average per capita income is only about US$1,000 per year, making Tuvalu one of the poorest nations on earth. However, education is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 13. Health care is also free, though limited by access (each of the main islands has a dispensary, but the only hospital is on Funafuti).
The society is egalitarian and democratic. Low income levels are mitigated by the strong social and village support networks. In 1998, Tuvalu was judged to be the only nation in the world above reproach for human rights violations.