Tokelau has a population of approximately 1,500 people; it has the fourth-smallest population of any sovereign state or dependency in the world. As of the 2016 census, around 45% of its residents had been born overseas, mostly in Samoa or New Zealand. The populace has a life expectancy of 69, which is comparable to that of other Oceanian island nations. Approximately 94% of the population speak Tokelauan as their first language. Tokelau has the smallest economy of any nation, although it is a leader in renewable energy, being the first 100% solar-powered nation in the world.
Tokelau is officially referred to as a nation by both the New Zealand government and the Tokelauan government. It is a free and democratic nation with elections every three years. However, in 2007, the United Nations General Assembly included Tokelau on its list of non-self-governing territories. Its inclusion on this list is controversial, as Tokelauans have twice narrowly voted against further self-determination, and the islands' small population makes the viability of self-government challenging. The basis of Tokelau's legislative, administrative and judicial systems is the Tokelau Islands Act 1948, which has been amended several times. Since 1993, the territory has annually elected its own head of government, the Ulu-o-Tokelau. Before 1993, the administrator of Tokelau was the highest official in the government and the territory was directly administered by a New Zealand government department.
Tokelau is a word meaning "north wind" in the native Tokelau language. The Tokelau islands were named the Union Islands and Union Group by European explorers at an earlier time. Tokelau Islands was adopted as the islands’ official name in 1946. The name was officially shortened to Tokelau on 9 December 1976.