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Country information: Jamaica



10 991 square kilometres


2.83 million (July 2009)

Capital city

Kingston (660.000 inhabitants 2004)

Official language

English (Patois)  

GDP per capita (PPP)

US$ 7 400 (2008)

Population growth

0.76% per cent per annum (2009)

Life expectancy

73,5 years (men: 71,8 years, women: 75,3 years) (2009)

Infant mortality

15,2 per 1 000 live births (2009)

Rate of illiteracy

12.1 per cent (2003)




Tourism plays an important role in the country. In recent years, Jamaica has become the most important tourist destination in the Caribbean. Visitors are attracted by the diversity of the island's landscape - with the Blue Mountains, former pirate hideaways and historical buildings from the colonial period. Also very interesting is the culture of Rastafari, which is known for the music of Ska and Reggae. According to UNWTO in the year 2004 approximately 1,4 million guests came into the country and paid 1,2 billion Euro.


Commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism

Expanding tourism, together with other factors, has led to a growth of the leisure industry. This in turn has triggered a growth in prostitution and traficking in humans.


Jamaica on14 May 1991 ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and has undertaken to protect children against all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.


Anyone observing a case of child abuse should report this to the tour operator, the tour guide and/or the hotel manager. Reports can also be made to the local police, the embassies and non-governmental organisations, which will follow up these cases.


HIV / Aids

With the spread of prostitution, there are also fears of an increase in the frequency of HIV and AIDS. According to estimates by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization published at the end of 2007 approximately 27.000 people in Jamaica were infected with HIV, including 7.600 women and less than 1.000 children. In the same year1.400 Jamaicans died following infection with HIV.


Local Contacts



Ministry of Health - Jamaica (M.O.H.)

2-4 King Street

Kingston 10, Jamaica

Phone: +876 967 1100

Fax: +876 967 1643





State and society

Jamaica is a parliamentary monarchy, and has been a member of the Commonwealth since gaining independence in 1962. Head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a Governor-General. Political power is exercised by a Prime Minister and Cabinet, the houses of parliament consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.


The core of the country’s problems remains social integration. Great inequality remains between the old colonial upper class - which now includes immigrants who have become wealthy and a handful of members of the black majority who have managed to climb out of the lower class - and the majority, which lives overwhelmingly in conditions of poverty. The failure to resolve this problem has resulted in an excessive level of criminal violence; in the last few years, 800 to 1100 murders have been committed annually.


And 97 per cent of the Jamaican population are Blacks and mulattos, while the remainder are of Caucasian and Indian descent. About half the population are Anglican, with five per cent each Roman Catholics and Rastafarians. There are also numerous Methodist churches and various religious sects.


There is a clear division of roles in Jamaican society. As a rule, mothers take care of the children, while the fathers go out to work. If the mothers also work, then grandparents, other relatives or godparents often help. 



In contrast with smaller Caribbean islands, Jamaica has a relatively broad economic base, but the business structure of the country has changed little since the mid-1980s.

The country’s most important exports are aluminum and bauxite, as well as sugar cane, bananas, rum and cannabis. Its most important industries are tourism, textiles, food processing, the production of alcohol from sugar cane, and the building material and paper industries.