Reunion Island

  • Presentation

Reunion island, with its 732 570 inhabitants (result of the 2001 census) and a density of 292.2 inhabitant/km2 is the most populated of the French overseas departments.

The publication of the 1999 census shows that the reunioneese demography is up to 1.72 % per year since 1990. The growth is due to a massive population movement but above all to a natural growth (surplus of birth on deceases): the birth rate reaches 20 0/00 (the birth rate is around 13 0/00 in the mother country France) whereas the mortality rate is around 5 0/00. The migratory sold 1990-1999 is positive as well. Should this rhythm remain unchanged reunion island population could reach 900 000 to one million inhabitants in 2025. The figures are underlining a definite ageing process of the population (51 400 are over 60 years old in 1990, 70 700 in 1999). By the same time, the number of persons below the age of 20 years old has gone down to 36% of the population when this rate was of 40% in 1990. The number of young adults (20 to 29 years old) got down to 15% of the population since 1990, whereas the number of persons from 30 to 39 years old is becoming the most important age bracket (17%).

One of the prominent reasons of this ageing process is definitely the longevity. The life expectancy reaches 70.4 years old for men and 78.6 for women, which represents a growth of 10 month since 1990.

On the first of January 2006 the number of inhabitants living in Reunion was estimated at 784 000 people. The combination of a natural excess and a slight migratory deficit (around 1000 persons) generate a rise of reunion island population of 9 400 individuals (+12.1 0/00) in the period between 2004 and 2005.

The birth rate is slightly going down for reaching 18.7 0 /00 but remains widely higher than in the mother country France (12.7 0 /00). The mortality rate is rising as well around 5.5 but remains much lower in Reunion Island than in the mother country France (8.7 0/00). The development of the mortality rate follows from the structure by age of the reunion Island population younger than the French one (continent).

Three centuries and half of history changed it all, for this empty island at first. Little by little, from diverse horizons people arrived and constituted a melting-pot society in which however six groups can be dissociated:

  • The people of Africa and Malagasy origins usually called “caffre” issued for most of them from the slavery period during which Mozambique, Guinea Senegal and Madagascar were the most important providers. This population is now deeply mixed up with the European root and is up to 35% of the total.
  • The white population of European origin represents 25% of the overall. 5% should be added being metropolitans (z’oreils) living on the island.
  • The Hindu Indian origin population, the”malbars” is made up of descendants of “contracted” workers arrived from 1848 to 1882. Thousands of them came from both the oriental side of India the “Coromandel Coast” and the Malabar Coast. It represents 25% of the total population.
  • The Chinese who approximately quitted canton region in the same period spread out in all areas of the Indian Ocean. Today they are estimated at 4% of the reunioneese.
  • The Indian Muslims from the gujerat region (north of Bombay) came later by the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century, they decided to settle down as well. Their descendants the “zarab” represent 3% of the population.
  • The people originally from Mayote and the Comoro Islands as well as the descendants of the contracted workers from other areas of the the Indian Ocean belt, brought in on the last century complete this human palette. Reunion Island benefits from an urban infrastructure very developed with 8 towns of over 30 000 inhabitants: Saint-Denis, the administrative town (131 557 inhabitants), Saint-Paul (87 712 inhabitants), Saint-Pierre (68 915 inhabitants), le Tampon (60 323 inhabitants), Saint-Louis (43 500 inhabitants), Saint-André (43 000 inhabitants), Saint-Benoît (31 560 inhabitants) and Saint-Joseph (30 293 inhabitants) (according to the census of march 1999). The urbanism rate (number of inhabitants living in a town of over 2000 inhabitants out of 100 inhabitants): 98.2% (75% in the mother country France).

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