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Demographics of Laos

Laos' population was estimated at about 5.4 million in 1999, dispersed unevenly across the country. Most people live in valleys of the Mekong River and its tributaries. Vientiane prefecture, the capital and largest city, had about 569,000 residents in 1999. The country's population density is 23.4/sq. km.

About half the country's people are ethnic Lao, the principal lowland inhabitants and politically and culturally dominant group. The Lao are a branch of the Tai (Thai) people who began migrating southward from China in the first millennium A.D. In the north, there are mountain tribes of Miao-Yao[?], Austro-Asiatic, Tibeto-Burman--Hmong, Yao[?], Akha[?], and Lahu[?] who migrated into the region in the 19th century. Collectively, they are known as Lao Sung[?] or highland Lao. In the central and southern mountains, Mon-Khmer[?] tribes, perhaps remnants of the Khmer empire, known as Lao Theung[?] or midslope Lao, predominate. Some Vietnamese and Chinese minorities remain, particularly in the towns, but many left in two waves--after independence in the late 1940s and again after 1975.

The predominant religion is Theravada Buddhism. Animism is common among the mountain tribes. Buddhism and spirit worship coexist easily. There also is a small number of Christians and Muslims.

The official and dominant language is Lao, a tonal language of the Tai linguistic group. Midslope and highland Lao speak an assortment of tribal languages. French, once common in government and commerce, has declined in usage, while knowledge of English--the language of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)--has increased in recent years.

Population: 5,497,459 (July 2000 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 43% (male 1,191,608; female 1,173,144)
15-64 years: 54% (male 1,447,788; female 1,500,016)
65 years and over: 3% (male 85,028; female 99,875) (2000 est.)

Population growth rate: 2.5% (2000 est.)

Birth rate: 38.29 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Death rate: 13.35 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.85 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 94.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 53.09 years
male: 51.22 years
female: 55.02 years (2000 est.)

Total fertility rate: 5.21 children born/woman (2000 est.)

Nationality:
noun: Lao(s) or Laotian(s)
adjective: Lao or Laotian

Ethnic groups: Lao Loum (lowland) 68%, Lao Theung (upland) 22%, Lao Soung (highland) including the Hmong and the Yao (Mien) 9%, ethnic Vietnamese/Chinese 1%

Laos recognizes 68 different ethnic groups in its territory.

Religions: Buddhist 60% (in October 1999, the regime proposed a constitutional amendment making Buddhism the state religion; the National Assembly is expected to vote on the amendment sometime in 2000), animist and other 40%

Languages: Lao (official), French, English, and various ethnic languages

Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 57%
male: 70%
female: 44% (1999 est.)

See also : Laos



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