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Demographics of Madagascar

Madagascar's population is predominantly of mixed Asian and African origin. Recent research suggests that the island was uninhabited until Indonesian seafarers arrived in roughly the first century A.D., probably by way of southern India and East Africa, where they acquired African wives and slaves. Subsequent migrations from both the Pacific and Africa further consolidated this original mixture, and 18 separate tribal groups emerged. Asian features are most predominant in the central highlands people, the Merina[?] (3 million) and the Betsileo (2 million); the coastal people are of African origin.

The largest coastal groups are the Betsimisaraka[?] (1.5 million) and the Tsimihety[?] and Sakalava[?] (700,000 each).

The Malagasy language is of Malayo-Polynesian origin and is generally spoken throughout the island. French also is spoken among the educated population of this former French colony.

Most people practice traditional religions, which tend to emphasize links between the living and the dead. They believe that the dead join their ancestors in the ranks of divinity and that ancestors are intensely concerned with the fate of their living descendants. This spiritual communion is celebrated by the Merina and Betsileo reburial practice of famadihana, or "turning over the dead[?]." In this ritual, relatives' remains are removed from the family tomb, rewrapped in new silk shrouds, and returned to the tomb following festive ceremonies in their honor.

About 45% of the Malagasy are Christian, divided almost evenly between Roman Catholic and Protestant. Many incorporate the cult of the dead with their religious beliefs and bless their dead at church before proceeding with the traditional burial rites. They also may invite a pastor to attend a famadihana.

A historical rivalry exists between the predominantly Catholic masses, considered to be underprivileged, and the predominantly Protestant Merina aristocrats, who tend to prevail in the civil service, business, and professions. A new policy of decentralizing resources and authority is intended to enhance the development potential of all Madagascar's provinces. Provincial Council members were elected by popular vote in December 2000. In March 2001, the new Provincial Council members joined mayors and communal council members in each province in electing Senators to represent them in the national parliament. Governors were elected by Electoral College in June 2001. Transfer of duties and establishments of budgets are in progress.

Population: 15,506,472 (July 2000 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 45% (male 3,504,562; female 3,481,056)
15-64 years: 52% (male 3,964,564; female 4,052,056)
65 years and over: 3% (male 237,691; female 266,543) (2000 est.)

Population growth rate: 3.02% (2000 est.)

Birth rate: 42.92 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Death rate: 12.69 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)

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

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.89 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 85.26 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 54.95 years
male: 52.71 years
female: 57.26 years (2000 est.)

Total fertility rate: 5.84 children born/woman (2000 est.)

noun: Malagasy (singular and plural)
adjective: Malagasy

Ethnic groups: Malayo-Indonesian (Merina and related Betsileo), Cotiers (mixed African, Malayo-Indonesian, and Arab ancestry - Betsimisaraka, Tsimihety, Antaisaka, Sakalava), French, Indian, Creole, Comoran

Religions: indigenous beliefs 52%, Christian 41%, Muslim 7%

Languages: French (official), Malagasy (official)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 80%
male: 88%
female: 73% (1990 est.)

See also : Madagascar

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