Tonga – unique among Pacific nations – never completely lost its indigenous governance. The archipelagos of “The Friendly Islands” were united into a Polynesian kingdom in 1845. Tonga became a constitutional monarchy in 1875 and a British protectorate in 1900; it withdrew from the protectorate and joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970. Tonga remains the only monarchy in the Pacific.


Location: Oceania, archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand
Geographic coordinates: 20 00 S, 175 00 W
Population: 106,146 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 37.2% (male 20,023/female 19,393)

15-64 years: 56.7% (male 30,125/female 29,959)

65 years and over: 6.1% (male 2,986/female 3,430) (2011 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: Kingdom of Tonga

conventional short form: Tonga

local long form: Pule’anga Tonga

local short form: Tonga

former: Friendly Islands

Government type: constitutional monarchy
Telephones – main lines in use: 31,000 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 54,300 (2009)
Airports: 6 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 1

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2012)

Military branches: Tonga Defence Services (TDS): Land Force (Royal Guard), Naval Force (includes Royal Marines, Air Wing) (2010)
Military service age and obligation: 16 years of age for voluntary enlistment (with parental consent); no conscription; the king retains the right to call up “all those capable of bearing arms” in wartime (2012)


Tonga has a small, open, South Pacific island economy. It has a narrow export base in agricultural goods. Squash, vanilla beans, and yams are the main crops, and agricultural exports, including fish, make up two-thirds of total exports. The country must import a high proportion of its food, mainly from New Zealand. The country remains dependent on external aid and remittances from Tongan communities overseas to offset its trade deficit.


Tourism is the second-largest source of hard currency earnings following remittances. The government is emphasizing the development of the private sector, especially the encouragement of investment, and is committing increased funds for health and education. Tonga has a reasonably sound basic infrastructure and well-developed social services. High unemployment among the young, a continuing upturn in inflation, pressures for democratic reform, and rising civil service expenditures are major issues facing the government.

Transnational Issues:  None