Burma Releases Preliminary Results From First Census in Decades

By Sanay Lin 1 September 2014

RANGOON — Preliminary results have been released from Burma’s first census in since 1982, detailing the number of people who now live in the county’s cities, states and divisions.

The results, released by the Ministry of Immigration and Population and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Saturday, indicate that the total population of the country is 51.4 million—lower than many previous estimates. The government estimated there were more than 57 million people in Burma at the time of the 2008 Constitution referendum, and the number has been widely estimated at more than 60 million in recent years.

Millions have gone abroad as jobs in Burma have been scarce and poorly paid compared with the country’s economically dynamic neighbors. Uneven migration may also account for the census’ finding that there are almost 1.7 million more women than men in Burma.

“The provisional census data does not include migrant workers,” Immigration and Population Minister
Khin Yi said at a press conference in Rangoon. “We don’t know the number of Burmese migrant workers.”

More detailed results expected in May 2015 will include some information on Burmese who are living overseas from immigration data, but many will likely still be missed out as they are working abroad illegally, mainly in Thailand and Malaysia.

Some areas could not be reached by census enumerators in March and April, so estimates have been made about the populations in those places.

More than 1 million people in Arakan State were not allowed to fill out the census as they insisted on identifying themselves as Rohingya, a name for a Muslim minority group that is not recognized by the government. This segment accounts for 31 percent of the total population of Arakan State.

Some 25 village tracts in Kachin State controlled by the Kachin Independence Army were not included in the census, but their population was estimated at 46,660. The government was also not able to take the census in areas controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU) Brigade (5) in Karen State, but, according to KNU-provided data, the population there was 69,753.

According to the provisional census data, Burma’s urban population is 14,864,119, accounting for 29.6 percent of the total. Rangoon tops the list of the most populous cities with 5,209,541 persons, followed by Mandalay with more than 1.23 million and the administrative capital Naypyidaw is third with more than 1.16 million.

Haka in Chin State has the smallest urban population with just 48,226 people, followed by Dawei in Tenasserim Division with 125,239 and Loikaw in Karenni State with 128,837.

Population density is highest in Rangoon Division with 723 persons per square kilometer. The population density for the city itself was not calculated.

The average population density across the country is 76 per square kilometer, with Chin State the most sparsely populated area with only 13 per square kilometer, followed by Kachin State with 19 per square kilometer.