Jamaica country profile

  • Published
map of Jamaica

Known for its strong sense of self identity expressed through its music, food and rich cultural mix, Jamaica's influence extends far beyond its shores.

With luminaries such as the black nationalist Marcus Garvey and musician Bob Marley, Jamaicans are proud of their cultural and religious heritage.

Jamaicans have migrated in significant numbers to the United States, Canada and Britain and their music stars are known around the globe.

The island is the birthplace of Rastafarianism, a religious movement which has been adopted by groups around the world who venerate the former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. Once regarded as a revolutionary threat, Rastafarianism became a cultural force, reflected in art and music.

Since independence from Britain in 1962, power in Jamaica has alternated between the social-democratic People's National Party and the conservative Jamaica Labour Party.

Political stability, however, has not turned into social and economic harmony.


  • Capital: Kingston
  • Area: 10,991 sq km
  • Population: 2.7 million
  • Languages: English, Jamaican Patois
  • Life expectancy: 70 years (men) 74 years (women)


Head of state: King Charles III

Prime minister: Andrew Holness

Image source, Getty Images

Andrew Holness won a second win for the Jamaica Labour Party in the September 2022 general election. The JLP increased its majority, winning 49 seats to 14 won by the PNP - in the 2016 election it had a majority of just one seat.

Among the challenges the government faces is a high rate of youth unemployment and dealing with the country's heavy debt.

Jamaica is also at a crossroads in its relationship with the British crown.

"We're moving on," Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the then-Duke and Duchess of Cambridge when they were on the island for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee in 2022. Polls suggest more than 50% of Jamaicans now support the idea of a republic.


Image source, Getty Images

Jamaica has a free press. Broadcast media are mainly commercial and carry diverse comment.

The country ranks highly in the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.


Some key dates in Jamaica's history:

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Jamaica became a leading sugar exporter with the help of slave labour, abolished in the 1830s

1494 - Christopher Columbus sights Jamaica.

1509 - Jamaica occupied by the Spaniards. Much of the indigenous Arawak community dies off from exposure to European diseases; African slaves brought in to work on the sugar plantations.

1655 - Jamaica is captured by the British.

1865 - The British ruthlessly put down the Morant Bay rebellion, staged by freed slaves in response to acute hardship, and force the local legislature to surrender its powers; Jamaica becomes a crown colony.

1962 - Jamaica becomes independent within the British Commonwealth

2010 - Dozens are killed in operation to arrest drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke. He is extradited to the US, sentenced and jailed.

2012 - Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller says that 50 years after Jamaica gained its independence from Britain, it is time for the country to break with the British monarchy and become a republic.

2020 - In the September general election, Andrew Holness wins a second consecutive win for the Jamaica Labour Party. The JLP, which had promised a referendum on becoming a republic but not carried one out, states that holding a referendum remains a goal.

2022 - The Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo Forte, says the transition to republic is to be completed by the next general election, currently scheduled for 2025. Popular support for republicanism grows following the death of Elizabeth II.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Jamaica is the birthplace of reggae music and Bob Marley was one of its greatest exponents

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