Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America and shares cultural and historical bonds with the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana's two largest ethnic groups are the Afro-Guyanese (descendants of African slaves) and the Indo-Guyanese (descendants of Indian indentured laborers), which together comprise about three quarters of Guyana's population. Tensions periodically have boiled over between the two groups, which back ethnically based political parties and vote along ethnic lines. Poverty reduction has stagnated since the late 1990s. About one-third of the Guyanese population lives below the poverty line; indigenous people are disproportionately affected. Although Guyana's literacy rate is reported to be among the highest in the Western Hemisphere, the level of functional literacy is considerably lower, which has been attributed to poor education quality, teacher training, and infrastructure.

Guyana's emigration rate is among the highest in the world - more than 55% of its citizens reside abroad - and it is one of the largest recipients of remittances relative to GDP among Latin American and Caribbean counties. Although remittances are a vital source of income for most citizens, the pervasive emigration of skilled workers deprives Guyana of professionals in healthcare and other key sectors. More than 80% of Guyanese nationals with tertiary level educations have emigrated. Brain drain and the concentration of limited medical resources in Georgetown hamper Guyana's ability to meet the health needs of its predominantly rural population. Guyana has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the region and continues to rely on international support for its HIV treatment and prevention programs.

Guyana's population is made up of five main ethnic groups--East Indian, African, Amerindian, Chinese, and Portuguese. Ninety percent of the inhabitants live on the narrow coastal plain, where population density is more than 115 persons per square kilometer (380 per sq. mi.). The population density for Guyana as a whole is low--less than four persons per square kilometer. Although the government has provided free education from nursery school to the university level since 1975, it has not allocated sufficient funds to maintain the standards of what had been considered the best educational system in the region. Many school buildings are in poor condition, there is a shortage of text and exercise books, the number of teachers has declined, and fees are being charged at the university level for some courses of study for the first time.


1990 2000 2010 2020
Population, total (millions) 0.74 0.75 0.75 0.79
Population growth (annual %) -0.3 -0.4 0.2 0.5
Surface area (sq. km) (thousands) 215 215 215 215
Population density (people per sq. km of land area) 3.8 3.8 3.8 4
Income share held by lowest 20% .. 4.2 .. ..
Life expectancy at birth, total (years) 63 65 68 70
Fertility rate, total (births per woman) 3.1 3 2.7 2.4
Adolescent fertility rate (births per 1,000 women ages 15-19) 85 97 87 70
Contraceptive prevalence, any method (% of married women ages 15-49) 38 37 43 ..
Births attended by skilled health staff (% of total) .. 83 87 ..
Mortality rate, under-5 (per 1,000 live births) 61 46 37 28
Prevalence of underweight, weight for age (% of children under 5) 13.2 11.9 11 ..
Immunization, measles (% of children ages 12-23 months) 73 86 95 98
Primary completion rate, total (% of relevant age group) 91 108 93 ..
School enrollment, primary (% gross) 96.7 105.5 96.5 ..
School enrollment, secondary (% gross) 77 102 90 ..
School enrollment, primary and secondary (gross), gender parity index (GPI) 1 1 1 ..
Prevalence of HIV, total (% of population ages 15-49) 0.1 0.6 1.4 1.3
Forest area (sq. km) (thousands) 186 185.6 185.2 184.2
Terrestrial and marine protected areas (% of total territorial area) .. .. .. 5.2
Annual freshwater withdrawals, total (% of internal resources) 0.6 0.7 0.6 0.6
Urban population growth (annual %) -0.6 -0.7 -0.6 0.8
Energy use (kg of oil equivalent per capita) 514 .. 670 ..
CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) 1.59 2.22 2.35 3.13
Electric power consumption (kWh per capita) .. .. .. ..