New Caledonia - NC - NCL - Australia and Oceania

Last updated: February 20, 2024
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New Caledonia Factbook Data

Dependency status

special collectivity (or a sui generis collectivity) of France since 1998; note - independence referenda took place on 4 November 2018, 4 October 2020, and 12 December 2021 with a majority voting in each case to reject independence in favor of maintaining the status quo; an 18-month transition period is now in place (ending 30 June 2023), during which a referendum on the new status of New Caledonia within France will take place 

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (overseas territory of France)

Age structure

0-14 years: 20.96% (male 32,199/female 30,825)

15-64 years: 68.45% (male 103,611/female 102,208)

65 years and over: 10.59% (2023 est.) (male 13,914/female 17,925)
2023 population pyramid
This is the population pyramid for New Caledonia. A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends.

For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page.

Geographic coordinates

21 30 S, 165 30 E

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female

total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2023 est.)

Heliports

2 (2024)

Natural hazards

cyclones, most frequent from November to March

volcanism: Matthew and Hunter Islands are historically active


Area - comparative

slightly smaller than New Jersey

Background

The first humans settled in New Caledonia around 1600 B.C. The Lapita were skilled navigators and evidence of their pottery around the Pacific has served as a guide for understanding human expansion in the region. Successive waves of migrants from other islands in Melanesia intermarried with the Lapita, giving rise to the Kanak ethnic group considered indigenous to New Caledonia. British explorer James COOK was the first European to visit New Caledonia in 1774, giving it the Latin name for Scotland. Missionaries first landed in New Caledonia in 1840. In 1853, France annexed New Caledonia to preclude any British attempt to claim the island. France declared it a penal colony in 1864 and sent more than 20,000 prisoners to New Caledonia in the ensuing three decades.

Nickel was discovered in 1864 and French prisoners were directed to mine it. France brought in indentured servants and enslaved labor from elsewhere in Southeast Asia to work the mines, blocking Kanaks from accessing the most profitable part of the local economy. In 1878, High Chief ATAI led a rebellion against French rule. The Kanaks were relegated to reservations, leading to periodic smaller uprisings and culminating in a large revolt in 1917 that was brutally suppressed by colonial authorities. During World War II, New Caledonia became an important base for Allied troops, and the US moved its South Pacific headquarters to the island in 1942. Following the war, France made New Caledonia an overseas territory and granted French citizenship to all inhabitants in 1953, thereby permitting the Kanaks to move off the reservations.

The Kanak nationalist movement began in the 1950s, but most voters chose to remain a territory in an independence referendum in 1958. The European population of New Caledonia boomed in the 1970s with a renewed focus on nickel mining, reigniting Kanak nationalism. Key Kanak leaders were assassinated in the early 1980s, leading to escalating violence and dozens of fatalities. The Matignon Accords of 1988 provided for a 10-year transition period. The Noumea Accord of 1998 transferred increasing governing responsibility from France to New Caledonia over a 20-year period and provided for three independence referenda. In the first held in 2018, voters rejected independence by 57% to 43%; in the second held in 2020, voters rejected independence 53% to 47%. In the third referendum held in December 2021, voters rejected independence 96% to 4%; however, a boycott by key Kanak groups spurred challenges about the legitimacy of the vote. In February 2021, pro-independence parties gained a majority in the New Caledonian Government for the first time. France and New Caledonia officials remain in talks about the status of the country.

Environment - current issues

preservation of coral reefs; prevention of invasive species; limiting erosion caused by nickel mining and forest fires

Population below poverty line

17% (2008)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA

highest 10%: NA

Exports - commodities

iron alloys, nickel, essential oils, recreational boats, shrimp (2021)

Exports - partners

China 55%, South Korea 16%, Japan 11%, Taiwan 4%, Spain 3% (2021)

Administrative divisions

3 provinces; Province Iles (Islands Province), Province Nord (North Province), and Province Sud (South Province)

Agricultural products

coconuts, vegetables, maize, fruit, beef, pork, potatoes, bananas, eggs, yams

Military and security forces

no regular military forces; France bases land, air, and naval forces on New Caledonia (Forces Armées de la Nouvelle-Calédonie, FANC) (2024)

Budget

revenues: $1.995 billion (2015 est.)

expenditures: $1.993 billion (2015 est.)

Capital

name: Noumea

geographic coordinates: 22 16 S, 166 27 E

time difference: UTC+11 (16 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: established in 1854 as Port-de-France, the settlement was renamed Noumea in 1866, in order to avoid any confusion with Fort-de-France in Martinique; the New Caledonian language of Ndrumbea (also spelled Ndumbea, Dubea, and Drubea) spoken in the area gave its name to the capital city, Noumea, as well as to the neighboring town (suburb) of Dumbea

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, coal, cars, packaged medicines, delivery trucks (2021)

Climate

tropical; modified by southeast trade winds; hot, humid

Coastline

2,254 km

Constitution

history: 4 October 1958 (French Constitution with changes as reflected in the Noumea Accord of 5 May 1998)

amendments: French constitution amendment procedures apply

Exchange rates

Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique francs (XPF) per US dollar -

Exchange rates:
100.88 (2021 est.)
104.711 (2020 est.)
106.589 (2019 est.)
101.047 (2018 est.)
105.633 (2017 est.)

Executive branch

chief of state: President Emmanuel MACRON (since 14 May 2017); represented by High Commissioner Patrice FAURE (since 6 June 2021)

head of government: President of the Government Louis MAPOU (since 22 July 2021); Vice President Isabelle CHAMPMOREAU (since 22 July 2021)

cabinet: Cabinet elected from and by the Territorial Congress

elections/appointments: French president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); high commissioner appointed by the French president on the advice of the French Ministry of Interior; president of New Caledonia elected by Territorial Congress for a 5-year term (no term limits); election last held on 8 July 2021 (next to be held in 2026)

election results:
2021:
Louis MAPOU (PALIKA) elected president by Territorial Congress with 6 of 11 votes

2019: Thierry SANTA (The Republicans) elected president by Territorial Congress with 6 of 11 votes

Fiscal year

calendar year

Flag description

New Caledonia has two official flags; alongside the flag of France, the Kanak (indigenous Melanesian) flag has equal status; the latter consists of three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), red, and green; a large yellow disk - diameter two-thirds the height of the flag - shifted slightly to the hoist side is edged in black and displays a black fleche faitiere symbol, a native rooftop adornment

Independence

none (overseas collectivity of France); note - in three independence referenda, on 4 November 2018, 4 October 2020, and 12 December 2021, the majority voted to reject independence in favor of maintaining the status quo; an 18-month transition period is now in place (ending 30 June 2023), during which a referendum on the new status of New Caledonia within France will take place

Industries

nickel mining and smelting

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Court of Appeal in Noumea or Cour d'Appel; organized into civil, commercial, social, and pre-trial investigation chambers; court bench normally includes the court president and 2 counselors); Administrative Court (number of judges NA); note - final appeals beyond the Court of Appeal are referred to the Court of Cassation or Cour de Cassation (in Paris); final appeals beyond the Administrative Court are referred to the Administrative Court of Appeal (in Paris)

judge selection and term of office: judge appointment and tenure based on France's judicial system

subordinate courts: Courts of First Instance include: civil, juvenile, commercial, labor, police, criminal, assizes, and also a pre-trial investigation chamber; Joint Commerce Tribunal; administrative courts

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Land use

agricultural land: 10.4% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0.4% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 9.8% (2018 est.)

forest: 45.9% (2018 est.)

other: 43.7% (2018 est.)

Legal system

civil law system based on French civil law

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Territorial Congress or Congrès du Territoire (54 seats; members indirectly selected proportionally by the partisan makeup of the 3 Provincial Assemblies or Assemblés Provinciales; members of the 3 Provincial Assemblies directly elected by party-list proportional representation vote; members serve 5-year terms); note - the Customary Senate is the assembly of the various traditional councils of the Kanaks, the indigenous population, which rules on laws affecting the indigenous population
New Caledonia indirectly elects 2 members to the French Senate by an electoral colleges for a 6-year term with one seat renewed every 3 years and directly elects 2 members to the French National Assembly by absolute majority vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term

elections:
Territorial Congress - last held on 12 May 2019 (next to be held in May 2024)
French Senate - election last held on 24 September 2023 (next to be held on 30 September 2026)
French National Assembly - election last held on 12 and 19 June 2022 (next to be held by June 2027)

election results:
Territorial Congress - percent of vote by party - N/A; seats by party - Future With Confidence 18, UNI 9, UC 9, CE 7, FLNKS 6, Oceanic Awakening 3, PT 1, LKS 1 (Anti-Independence 28, Pro-Independence 26);
French Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - UMP 2
French National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CE 2

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 96.9%

male: 97.3%

female: 96.5% (2015)

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

International organization participation

ITUC (NGOs), PIF (associate member), SPC, UPU, WFTU (NGOs), WMO

National holiday

Fete de la Federation, 14 July (1790); note - the local holiday is New Caledonia Day, 24 September (1853)

Nationality

noun: New Caledonian(s)

adjective: New Caledonian

Natural resources

nickel, chrome, iron, cobalt, manganese, silver, gold, lead, copper

Geography - note

consists of the main island of New Caledonia (one of the largest in the Pacific Ocean), the archipelago of Iles Loyaute, and numerous small, sparsely populated islands and atolls

Economic overview

upper-middle-income French Pacific territorial economy; enormous nickel reserves; ongoing French independence negotiations; large Chinese nickel exporter; luxury eco-tourism destination; large French aid recipient; high cost-of-living; lingering wealth disparities

Political parties and leaders

Caledonia Together or CE [Philippe GOMES]
Caledonian Union or UC [Daniel GOA]
Future With Confidence or AEC [Virginie RUFFENACH]
Kanak Socialist Front for National Liberation or FLNKS (alliance includes PALIKA, UNI, UC, and UPM) [Victor TUTUGORO]
Labor Party or PT [Louis Kotra UREGEI]
National Union for Independence or UNI [Louis MAPOU]
Oceanian Awakening [Milakulo TUKUMULI]
Party of Kanak Liberation or PALIKA [Paul NEAOUTYINE]
Socialist Kanak Liberation or LKS [Basile CITRE]
The Republicans (formerly The Rally or UMP) [Sonia BACKES]

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Noumea

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: New Caledonia’s telecom sector provides fixed and mobile voice services, mobile internet, fixed broadband access, and wholesale services for other ISPs; the country is well serviced by extensive 3G and LTE networks, and is considered to have one of the highest smartphone adoption rates in the Pacific region; by 2025, smart phone penetration is expected to reach 71%; while DSL is still the dominant fixed broadband technology, and a nationwide FttP network; the South Pacific region has become a hub for submarine cable system developments in recent years, with further networks scheduled to come online later in 2021 and into 2022; these new cables are expected to increase competition in the region with regards to international capacity; in 2020, the government owned telco commissioned Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) to build the Gondwana-2 cable system to provide additional network capacity and complement the Gondwana-1 cable (2022)

domestic: fixed-line is 16 per 100 and mobile-cellular telephone subscribership 90 per 100 persons (2021)

international: country code - 687; landing points for the Gondwana-1 and Picot-1 providing connectivity via submarine cables around New Caledonia and to Australia; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) (2019)

Terrain

coastal plains with interior mountains

Government type

parliamentary democracy (Territorial Congress); an overseas collectivity of France

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of France

Country name

conventional long form: Territory of New Caledonia and Dependencies

conventional short form: New Caledonia

local long form: Territoire des Nouvelle-Caledonie et Dependances

local short form: Nouvelle-Caledonie

etymology: British explorer Captain James COOK discovered and named New Caledonia in 1774; he used the appellation because the northeast of the island reminded him of Scotland (Caledonia is the Latin designation for Scotland)

Location

Oceania, islands in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Australia

Map references

Oceania

Irrigated land

100 sq km (2012)

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (overseas territory of France)

Internet country code

.nc

GDP (official exchange rate)

$9.77 billion (2017 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 72.7% of total population (2023)

rate of urbanization: 1.72% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Broadcast media

the publicly owned French Overseas Network (RFO), which operates in France's overseas departments and territories, broadcasts over the RFO Nouvelle-Calédonie TV and radio stations; a small number of privately owned radio stations also broadcast

Drinking water source

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 99.3% of population

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 0.7% of population (2020 est.)

National anthem

name: "Soyons unis, devenons freres" (Let Us Be United, Let Us Become Brothers)

lyrics/music: Chorale Melodia (a local choir)

note: adopted 2008; contains a mixture of lyrics in both French and Nengone (an indigenous language); as a self-governing territory of France, in addition to the local anthem, "La Marseillaise" is official (see France)

Major urban areas - population

198,000 NOUMEA (capital) (2018)

Physicians density

NA

National symbol(s)

fleche faitiere (native rooftop adornment), kagu bird; national colors: gray, red

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 64.3% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 24% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 38.4% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 18.7% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -45.5% (2017 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 49.6

youth dependency ratio: 33.6

elderly dependency ratio: 16

potential support ratio: 6.3 (2021 est.)

Citizenship

see France

Population distribution

most of the populace lives in the southern part of the main island, in and around the capital of Noumea

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2021)

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 3 (2020) (registered in France)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 15 (registered in France)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 0% of population (2020 est.)

Ethnic groups

Kanak 39.1%, European 27.1%, Wallisian, Futunian 8.2%, Tahitian 2.1%, Indonesian 1.4%, Ni-Vanuatu 1%, Vietnamese 0.9%, other 17.7%, unspecified 2.5% (2014 est.)

Religions

Christian 85.2%, Muslim 2.8%, other 1.6%, unaffiliated 10.4% (2020 est.)

Languages

French (official), 33 Melanesian-Polynesian dialects

major-language sample(s):
The World Factbook, une source indispensable d'informations de base. (French)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.
French audio sample

Imports - partners

France 39%, Australia 14%, Singapore 11%, New Zealand 7%, China 7% (2021)

Disputes - international

New Caledonia-France-Vanuatu: Matthew and Hunter Islands east of New Caledonia claimed by France and Vanuatu


Elevation

highest point: Mont Panie 1,628 m

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

Contraceptive prevalence rate

NA

Current health expenditure

NA

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 108,157 tons (2016 est.)

Air pollutants

carbon dioxide emissions: 5.33 megatons (2016 est.)

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 1 (natural); note - excerpted from the France entry

selected World Heritage Site locales: Lagoons of New Caledonia

Coal

production: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

consumption: 1.151 million metric tons (2020 est.)

exports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

imports: 1.151 million metric tons (2020 est.)

proven reserves: 2 million metric tons (2019 est.)

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 91.2% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

nuclear: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

solar: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

wind: 1.5% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

hydroelectricity: 7.4% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

tide and wave: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

geothermal: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

biomass and waste: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

Natural gas

production: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

consumption: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

exports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

imports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

proven reserves: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

Petroleum

total petroleum production: 0 bbl/day (2021 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 19,300 bbl/day (2019 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate exports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate imports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil estimated reserves: 0 barrels (2021 est.)

Gross reproduction rate

0.9 (2023 est.)

Currently married women (ages 15-49)

22.5% (2023 est.)

Remittances

6.58% of GDP (2020 est.)
6.58% of GDP (2019 est.)
6.31% of GDP (2018 est.)

Labor force

132,200 (2021 est.)

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 41% (2021 est.)

male: 39.2%

female: 43.2%

Net migration rate

3.6 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2023 est.)

note: there has been steady emigration from Wallis and Futuna to New Caledonia

Median age

total: 33.9 years (2023 est.)

male: 33.1 years

female: 34.8 years

Debt - external

$112 million (31 December 2013 est.)

$79 million (31 December 1998 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

19,100 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Public debt

6.5% of GDP (2015 est.)
6.5% of GDP (2014 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.84 children born/woman (2023 est.)

Unemployment rate

16.57% (2021 est.)
16.43% (2020 est.)
14.91% (2019 est.)

Population

300,682 (2023 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

0% (of GDP) (2015 est.)

Internet users

total: 237,800 (2021 est.)

percent of population: 82% (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

5.886 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from coal and metallurgical coke: 2.879 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 3.007 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from consumed natural gas: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

Area

total: 18,575 sq km

land: 18,275 sq km

water: 300 sq km

Taxes and other revenues

20.4% (of GDP) (2015 est.)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$10.266 billion (2021 est.)
$11.11 billion (2017 est.)
$10.89 billion (2016 est.)

note: data are in 2015 dollars

Roadways

total: 5,622 km (2006)

Infant mortality rate

total: 4.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2023 est.)

male: 5.9 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 3.9 deaths/1,000 live births

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 260,000 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 90 (2021 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

1.4% (2017 est.)
0.6% (2016 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Current account balance

-$654.237 million (2016 est.)
-$1.861 billion (2013 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$35,700 (2021 est.)
$31,100 (2015 est.)
$32,100 (2014 est.)

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 55,000 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 19 (2020 est.)

Energy consumption per capita

0 Btu/person (2019 est.)

Death rate

5.9 deaths/1,000 population (2023 est.)

Birth rate

14 births/1,000 population (2023 est.)

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 1.071 million kW (2020 est.)

consumption: 2,940,707,000 kWh (2019 est.)

exports: 0 kWh (2020 est.)

imports: 0 kWh (2020 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 64.293 million kWh (2019 est.)

Merchant marine

total: 23 (2023)

by type: general cargo 5, oil tanker 1, other 17

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

NA

Imports

$2.26 billion (2021 est.)
$2.1 billion (2020 est.)
$2.48 billion (2019 est.)

Exports

$1.92 billion (2021 est.)
$1.8 billion (2020 est.)
$1.79 billion (2019 est.)

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 46,000 (2021 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 16 (2021 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 79.1 years (2023 est.)

male: 75.2 years

female: 83.1 years

Real GDP growth rate

2% (2017 est.)
1.1% (2016 est.)
3.2% (2015 est.)

Industrial production growth rate

3.5% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 1.4% (2017 est.)

industry: 26.4% (2017 est.)

services: 72.1% (2017 est.)

Education expenditures

NA

Population growth rate

1.17% (2023 est.)

Airports

21 (2024)