Demographics of Madagascar

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: African Geography

Madagascar's population is predominantly of mixed Malay and East African origin. Recent research suggests that the island was uninhabited until Malay seafarers arrived around the first century A.D., probably by way of southern India and East Africa, where they acquired African wives and slaves. Other historians believe that the Malays crossed the Indian Ocean and only reached the African mainland after having established durable communities on Madagascar. Subsequent migrations from both the Pacific and Africa further consolidated this original mixture, and 18 separate tribal groups emerged. Malay features are most predominant in the central highlands people, the Merina (3 million) and the Betsileo (2 million); the remaining 16 tribal groupings are coastal peoples (côtiers) who are predominantly of East African origin, with various Malay, Arab, European and Indian admixtures. The largest coastal groups are the Betsimisaraka (1.5 million) and the Tsimihety and Sakalava (700,000 each). Malagasy society has long been polarized between the politically and economically advantaged highlanders of the central plateaux and the côtiers along the coast. For example in the 1970s there was widespread opposition among côtiers against the policy of Malgachisation which intended to phase out the use of the French language in public life in favour of a more prominent position for the Malagasy language, whose orthography is based on the Merina dialect. Identity politics were also at the core of the brief civil unrest during 2002.

The Malagasy language is of Malayo- Polynesian origin and is spoken throughout the island. French also is spoken among the educated population of this former French colony, primarily as a prestigious second language.

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 honour. In the festivities, they eat, drink, and literally dance with the dead. After one or two days of celebrating, they shower the body with gifts and re-bury it.

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.

Demographics of Madagascar, Data of FAO, year 2005 ; Number of inhabitants in thousands.
Demographics of Madagascar, Data of FAO, year 2005 ; Number of inhabitants in thousands.
Population density of Madagascar as of 2004
Population density of Madagascar as of 2004

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), Côtiers (mixed African, Malayo-Indonesian, and Arab ancestry - Betsimisaraka, Tsimihety, Antaisaka, Sakalava), French, Desi, Creole, Comorian, Chinese

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

Languages: Malagasy (official), French (official)

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

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