Population of Lesotho 2017


Current population of Lesotho is 1,958,042 people (July 2017 est.).

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 2017 est.)


noun: Mosotho (singular), Basotho (plural)
adjective: Basotho

Ethnic Groups

Sotho 99.7%, Europeans, Asians, and other 0.3%


Sesotho (official) (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa


Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%

Demographic Profile

Lesotho 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 onetime 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 Structure

0-14 years: 32.12% (male 316,106/female 312,869)
15-24 years: 19.43% (male 181,481/female 199,039)
25-54 years: 37.94% (male 362,798/female 380,001)
55-64 years: 5.01% (male 52,293/female 45,828)
65 years and over: 5.5% (male 55,163/female 52,464) (2017 est.)

Dependency Ratios

total dependency ratio: 66.9
youth dependency ratio: 59.5
elderly dependency ratio: 7.4
potential support ratio: 13.5 (2015 est.)

Median Age

total: 24 years
male: 24 years
female: 24 years (2016 est.)

Population Growth Rate

0.3% (2017 est.)

Birth Rate

24.6 births/1,000 population (2017 est.)

Death Rate

15 deaths/1,000 population (2017 est.)

Net Migration Rate

-6.8 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2017 est.)

Population Distribution

relatively higher population density in the western half of the nation, with the capital of Maseru, and the smaller cities of Mafeteng, Teyateyaneng, and Leribe attracting the most people


urban population: 28.4% of total population (2017)
rate of urbanization: 2.85% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major Urban Areas – Population:

MASERU (capital) 267,000 (2014)

Sex Ratio

at 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 Birth

21 years

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2014 est.)

Maternal Mortality Rate

487 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant Mortality Rate

total: 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 Birth

total population: 53 years
male: 52.9 years
female: 53.1 years (2016 est.)

Total Fertility Rate

2.63 children born/woman (2017 est.)

Contraceptive Prevalence Rate

60.2% (2014)

Health Expenditures

10.6% of GDP (2014)

Hospital Bed Density

1.3 beds/1,000 population (2006)

Drinking Water Source

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 Access

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 Rate

25% (2016 est.)

HIV/AIDS – People Living with HIV/AIDS

330,000 (2016 est.)

HIV/AIDS – Deaths

9,900 (2016 est.)

Obesity – Adult Prevalence Rate

11.9% (2014)

Children Under the Age of 5 Years Underweight

10.3% (2014)

Education Expenditures

13% of GDP (2008)


definition: 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 15-24

total: 34.4%
male: NA
female: NA (2013 est.)