Territorial description

Located in the south-western part of the Indian Ocean, Réunion is a European region in the southern hemisphere and the furthest from continental Europe. The island has high quality infrastructures, making it one of the best equipped in the Indian Ocean region.

Two international airports and a large seaport ensure that Réunion is always open to the rest of the world. The region is also connected to broadband, by means of a network combining several technologies. In addition, it has modern health infrastructures, with the most efficient public facilities in the Indian Ocean region.


As of 1 January 2019, 861,200 people live in Réunion. The population has been growing by 0.5% per year since 2013, faster than in mainland France (0.4%). Demographic growth is driven by the natural balance, marked by a surplus of births over deaths. However, it is held back by more people leaving than arriving. The birth rate remains high and clearly higher than in metropolitan France. The population is young (2.5 times more people under 20 than over 65).

Average standard of living and poverty

In 2019, 37% of people in Réunion live below the metropolitan poverty line. Poverty remains much higher than in mainland France (15%). Indeed, the employment deficit remains significant on the island. Living standards remain lower in Réunion from one end of the income scale to the other. Half of the population has an average income level below €1,320 per month, i.e. 27% less than the national average.

Gross domestic product

With a gross domestic product (GDP) of €19.2 billion in 2020, Réunion is one of the least wealth-creating regions in France. However, it has the highest GDP of the French overseas departments (DOM). Both GDP per capita and per job are still much lower, by €7,000 and €10,000 respectively, than those in mainland France, excluding Ile-de-France. However, its GDP per capita is higher than that of neighbouring territories in the Indian Ocean, and very close to that of Guadeloupe.

Level of education

More than one out of three inhabitants (36.5%) aged 15 or over and not attending school have at least a high school diploma in Réunion. One out of five inhabitants has a higher education qualification, which is much lower than the national average (31%). At the same time, 43% of Réunion’s inhabitants have few or no qualifications, compared to 27% at national level.

Labour market

In 2020, employment increased in Réunion (+1.3%) and reached 302,900 jobs at the end of the year. Réunion is one of the few regions to create employment in 2020. The tertiary sector accounts for 84% of the island employment, which is more than at national level. In particular, the non-market tertiary sector is clearly more represented than at national level (41% compared to 31%). In contrast, Réunion is not very much involved in industry, with 7% of jobs, compared to 12% at national level.

Unemployment rate

In 2021, 59,000 people were unemployed as defined by the International Labour Office in Réunion, i.e. 18% of the active population. The unemployment rate decreased in 2021 (-3 points compared to 2019) due to the employment dynamism. Even though it has reached a historically low level, it remains well above the French average (7.9%) and is one of the highest among French regions. Only 46% of the working-age people have a job, compared with 64% at the national level. On the other hand, the number of inactive people (excluding students and people in retirement) is almost twice as high (16% of people aged 15 to 64, compared with 9% at national level).

Economic activity

In 2020, 46,400 companies made up the mainly non-agricultural and non-financial market sectors in Réunion. They generated added value of €7.5 billion (0.7% of the French company added value, excluding Mayotte), with a business turnover of €25.5 billion. Four sectors contribute significantly to the creation of such added value: education, health and social action (excluding the public sector), various business services, retail trade and construction.

Two thirds of the companies in Réunion do not employ any employees. The other 14,370 companies employed 117,000 people on 31 December 2020. Most of them are small in size: 11,870 companies have between 1 and 9 employees, 2,460 have between 10 and 249 employees, and 34 have more than 250 employees.


Geographical and climatic profile

Subtropical volcanic island subject to climatic hazards and natural hazards, Réunion is mainly characterized by a mountainous terrain, microclimates, an exceptional wealth and diversity of its environments and natural resources. Given its geographical location, this region is an ideal European relay for atmospheric observation and satellite-assisted environmental monitoring.

Due to its unique biodiversity, concentrating thousands of natural and endemic species, Réunion is one of the thirty-four global “hot spots” of terrestrial and marine biodiversity. The Pitons, Cirques and Ramparts of Réunion have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage since 2010. The territory is protected as regards the Natural Park des Hauts and the Marine Reserve, that is 42% of the surface area and 80 km of coastline are protected.

Finally, the rugged relief implies a concentration of the population mainly on the coastline directly impacting on the living conditions of the inhabitants. This imbalance between highs and lows results in significant disparities in terms of attractiveness, employment and accessibility, as well as access to services to the detriment of rural áreas.

The productive system


▪ Agri-food: 1st industrial sector; 1st export item in value

▪ 7000 farms

▪ 22,000 jobs

▪ Niche productions with high added value (victoria pineapple, litchis, bourbon pointu coffee, IGP labeled vanilla)

▪ Sugar and rum represent 70% of exports in value; world leader in specialty sugars; number 1 in European markets


Renewable energies / tropical buildings

▪ 1/3 of electricity production is from renewable sources.

▪ Abandonment of coal and heavy fuel oil for the production of electricity by the total conversion of the 2 Albioma power stations to solid biomass in addition to the current use of sugar cane bagasse and by that of the EDF PEI power station in liquid biomass

▪ In terms of photovoltaics, the objective is +250 to 310 MW by 2028, which is added to the existing 190 MW.

▪ Tropical buildings: recognized know-how and expertise; CIRBAT/research center



Reunion displays a certain tourist maturity, based on powerful assets in terms of tourist attractiveness, including in particular:

▪ A diversity of landscapes (beaches, circuses, volcano…) which offers a wide range of leisure activities

▪ A favorable subtropical climate all year round

▪ An attractive cultural heritage linked to a Creole way of life

▪ A level of security and stability identical to any French department

▪ A warm welcome from the population



Réunion in photos

  • Piton de la Fournaise