Suriname’s population is almost entirely gathered in the coastal region, where most live in or around the capital Paramaribo. The hinterland is very sparsely populated. The residents are mainly of Asian or African origin.
The population is extremely diverse and mixed. The original residents, formerly called Indians, constitute only a few percent. They mostly live inland and speak Arabic language and Caribbean. Surinam is believed to have got its name from a now extinct people, the Surin.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Suriname, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
Even fewer than the native residents are the whites, where two groups predominate: first Dutch and second Jews of Portuguese origin.
The Asiatic ancestors came to Suriname as contract workers, to work on the plantations after the abolition of slavery. Surinam’s largest individual population group is the Indians, who in Suriname are often called Hindustani and make up more than a quarter of the total population. Many of them are engaged in small-scale farming or industrial work. Another large Asian group is the Javanese who mainly live as leaseholders. A much smaller but well-ordered and influential group originated in China.
The blacks originally came to the country as slaves. The largest black group is the Maroons, whose ancestors were slaves who early escaped from plantations on the coast and settled in the rainforest. The maroons, which make up just over one-fifth of the population, live mainly by burning, hunting and fishing. They have preserved much of West African customs and beliefs and have also been influenced by the indigenous peoples. The second largest group is the Creoles, which are often of mixed black and white origin. Since slavery was abolished in 1863, they have largely lived in the cities. They often work in public service, in politics or in business.
The emigration has been extensive. Just before independence in 1975, many of Surinam’s intellectual and economic elite moved to the Netherlands. Today there are around 350,000 native Surinamese people or people with Surinamese onion.
Thousands, maybe tens of thousands, Brazilians also live in Suriname. Most of them have come across the border as gold watchers.
About 20 languages are spoken in Suriname. Dutch is used in schools and in public settings. Practically everyone understands Dutch, and it is the native language of about 60 percent of the residents, but most of them use it alongside one or more other languages. A Creole language, sranan tongo (or taki-taki), emerged as a common social language around 1700 and is now used by Surinamese in all ethnic groups. Nearly a third consider sranan tongo as their mother tongue, and there is some written literature in the language. Sranan tongo is based in English but also has elements from Dutch and Portuguese as well as from Native American and African languages.
Suriname also has some other Creole languages. The Indians have one, mainly based on the North Indian Biharis, while Javanese and Chinese have retained their original languages with some additions. The indigenous people speak arawak and carib language, but some of their smallest languages are about to disappear.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
Indians (“Hindustani” or “East Indian”) 27.4 percent, Maroons 21.7 percent, Creole 15.7 percent, Javanese 13.7 percent, mixed descent 13.4 percent, indigenous people 3.8 percent, Chinese 1.5 percent, other 2.8 percent 1
Number of residents
563 402 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
66.0 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
18.2 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
7.3 per 1000 residents (2016)
0.9 percent (2017)
2.4 number of children born per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
49.8 percent (2017)
71 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
75 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
68 years (2016)
Dutch is officially language 2
- self-identification in census 2012
2. the mixed language sranan tongo (or taki-taki) is widespread, 15-22 local languages of which arawak and carib are largest