Lesotho: People & Society#

note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2016 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Mosotho (singular), Basotho (plural)
adjective: Basotho
Ethnic groupsSotho 99.7%, Europeans, Asians, and other 0.3%
LanguagesSesotho (official) (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa
ReligionsChristian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%
Demographic profileLesotho faces great socioeconomic challenges. More than half of its population lives below the property line, and the country’s HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is the second highest in the world. In addition, Lesotho is a small, mountainous, landlocked country with little arable land, leaving its population vulnerable to food shortages and reliant on remittances. Lesotho’s persistently high infant, child, and maternal mortality rates have been increasing during the last decade, according to the last two Demographic and Health Surveys. Despite these significant shortcomings, Lesotho has made good progress in education; it is on-track to achieve universal primary education and has one of the highest adult literacy rates in Africa. Lesotho’s migration history is linked to its unique geography; it is surrounded by South Africa with which it shares linguistic and cultural traits. Lesotho at one time had more of its workforce employed outside its borders than any other country. Today remittances equal about 17% of its GDP. With few job options at home, a high rate of poverty, and higher wages available across the border, labor migration to South Africa replaced agriculture as the prevailing Basotho source of income decades ago. The majority of Basotho migrants were single men contracted to work as gold miners in South Africa. However, migration trends changed in the 1990s, and fewer men found mining jobs in South Africa because of declining gold prices, stricter immigration policies, and a preference for South African workers. Although men still dominate cross-border labor migration, more women are working in South Africa, mostly as domestics, because they are widows or their husbands are unemployed. Internal rural-urban flows have also become more frequent, with more women migrating within the country to take up jobs in the garment industry or moving to care for loved ones with HIV/AIDS. Lesotho’s small population of immigrants is increasingly composed of Taiwanese and Chinese migrants who are involved in the textile industry and small retail businesses.
Age structure0-14 years: 32.4% (male 317,933/female 314,849)
15-24 years: 19.56% (male 181,907/female 200,113)
25-54 years: 37.58% (male 358,643/female 375,313)
55-64 years: 5% (male 52,016/female 45,549)
65 years and over: 5.47% (male 54,466/female 52,281) (2016 est.)
Dependency ratiostotal dependency ratio: 67.3%
youth dependency ratio: 60.3%
elderly dependency ratio: 6.9%
potential support ratio: 14.4% (2015 est.)
Median agetotal: 24 years
male: 24 years
female: 24 years (2016 est.)
Population growth rate0.3% (2016 est.)
Birth rate25.1 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Death rate14.9 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Net migration rate-7.1 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)
Urbanizationurban population: 27.3% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 3.05% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
Major urban areas - populationMASERU (capital) 267,000 (2014)
Sex ratioat birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.91 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 1.14 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.03 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2016 est.)
Mother's mean age at first birth21
note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2014 est.)
Maternal mortality rate487 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)
Infant mortality ratetotal: 47.6 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 51.2 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 43.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)
Life expectancy at birthtotal population: 53 years
male: 52.9 years
female: 53.1 years (2016 est.)
Total fertility rate2.68 children born/woman (2016 est.)
Contraceptive prevalence rate47% (2009/10)
Health expenditures10.6% of GDP (2014)
Hospital bed density1.3 beds/1,000 population (2006)
Drinking water sourceimproved:
urban: 94.6% of population
rural: 77% of population
total: 81.8% of population
urban: 5.4% of population
rural: 23% of population
total: 18.2% of population (2015 est.)
Sanitation facility accessimproved:
urban: 37.3% of population
rural: 27.6% of population
total: 30.3% of population
urban: 62.7% of population
rural: 72.4% of population
total: 69.7% of population (2015 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate22.73% (2015 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS308,100 (2015 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths9,900 (2015 est.)
Obesity - adult prevalence rate11.9% (2014)
Children under the age of 5 years underweight10.3% (2014)
Education expenditures13% of GDP (2008)
Literacydefinition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 79.4%
male: 70.1%
female: 88.3% (2015 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)total: 11 years
male: 10 years
female: 11 years (2014)
Unemployment, youth ages 15-24total: 34.4%
male: 29%
female: 41.9% (2013 est.)