East Timor Population, People, Languages and Religions

By | January 21, 2022

East Timor Country Overview

Where is East Timor located? East Timor is an island in the east of the Indonesian Archipelago, which is the largest of the Lesser Sunda Islands. The Timor archipelago has over 3 million inhabitants. Due to its proximity to Indonesia, Timor is assigned to the Central Indonesian Time on the time zone map, a world time zone in which there is a time difference of +8 hours to the coordinated world time. Even in summer, this standard difference to the world clock remains, since there is no time changeover to daylight saving time.

Bordering Countries of East Timor

According to abbreviationfinder, East Timor is bordered by Indonesia to the west and south, and the Timor Sea to the north. To the east is Australia’s Ashmore and Cartier Islands, which are located in the Indian Ocean. East Timor also shares maritime borders with Papua New Guinea to the southeast, and with the Solomon Islands to the east of Ashmore and Cartier Islands.

Indonesia is East Timor’s largest neighbor, occupying much of its western half. The Indonesia-East Timor border is formed by two distinct sections: a land boundary that runs along mountain ridges between East Timor and Indonesia’s West Timor province; and a maritime boundary that extends southwards along a line of equidistant points in the Savu Sea. The land border between East Timor and Indonesia is marked by several rivers as well as some mountain peaks. It stretches for approximately 511 kilometers (319 miles).

The maritime boundary between East Timor and Indonesia follows a series of equidistant points in the Savu Sea, extending from Cape Lari near West Timor to Cape Dua near Atauro Island in East Timor. This boundary has been established through agreements between both countries, which have also established fishing zones within this boundary.

The maritime boundary between East Timor and Papua New Guinea runs from Cape Dua on Atauro Island in East Timor to Point Carrera on mainland Papua New Guinea, passing through several small islands including Tasiriki Island, Sanananda Island, Sialum Island, Lihir Island, Fergusson Island, Goodenough Island and Normanby Island along its course. This boundary was also established through agreements between both countries which divide up fishing zones within this area as well.

Finally, East Timor shares a maritime border with Solomon Islands that runs from Point Carrera on mainland Papua New Guinea to Point Nemo near Ashmore Reef in Australia’s Ashmore and Cartier Islands group in the Indian Ocean. This border was established through an agreement between both countries which defines fishing rights within this area as well as navigation rights for ships belonging to each country passing through these waters.

East Timor National Flag

Population Distribution

As of 2023, the latest population of East Timor is 1,383,723, based on our calculation of the current data from UN (United Nations).

Total population 1,383,723
Population growth rate 2.27%
Birth rate 33.40 births per 1,000 people
Life expectancy
Overall life expectancy 67.06 years
Men life expectancy 65.57 years
Women life expectancy 68.65 years
Age structure
0-14 years 40.44%
15-64 years 55.61%
65 years and above 3.95%
Median age 18.60 years
Gender ratio (Male to Female) 1.01
Population density 93.03 residents per km²
Urbanization 7.60%
78% Timorers, 20% Indonesians, 2% Chinese
Catholics (Roman Catholic) 90%; Muslims 4%; Protestants 3%; Hindus 0.5%; Buddhists, Animists (1992 estimates)
Human Development Index (HDI) 0.626
HDI ranking 131st out of 194

People in East Timor

The population of East Timor arose from various waves of immigration. That is why there are many ethnic groups living in the country, a total of 15. Most of the residents of East Timor are the Malayo-Polynesian Tetum. They thus form the largest ethnic group. But there are also a few more like the Mambai, the Kemak or the Tokodede.

All ethnicities have their own traditions. However, they do not live separately from one another, but are traditionally linked by marriage. As a result, the various tribes and population groups are very well networked with one another. In recent years, the traditional Timorese tribes have been joined by the Chinese, Arabs and Portuguese. But not very many of them live in the country.

Languages in East Timor

Each of the 15 ethnic groups in East Timor has its own language. Mostly these are Malayo-Polynesian or Papuan languages. All are recognized by the government as national languages ​​and should be protected as a cultural asset. This can sometimes be very difficult in everyday life, for example when you go to the doctor and the doctor doesn’t understand you because he speaks a different language.

Fortunately, a large part of the population also masters Tetum, especially in urban areas. Together with Portuguese, Tetum is the country’s official language. English and Malay have recently become working languages, i.e. languages ​​that have come to the country primarily with foreign investors.

Religions in East Timor

In East Timor there has been a real change of faith in the last few decades. During the Portuguese colonial period, the majority of Timorese were still of the animistic faith, only a third professed to be Christian.

However, when the struggles for freedom began during the Indonesian occupation, large parts of the population identified with the Christian faith, which opposed the Muslim faith of the occupiers.

It so happens that today 96 out of 100 people in East Timor are Christians. There, Catholicism has had the greatest popularity worldwide in recent years, because almost all of the Timorese Christians profess the Catholic faith. Only about two out of 100 Christians in East Timor are Protestants. In the meantime there is hardly anyone of any animistic belief in East Timor, but some beliefs are still traditionally practiced. Religious minorities are made up of Islam and Buddhism.