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Press release: 1998 Malawi Population and Housing Census final results

The National Statistical Office would like to announce the final results of the 1998 Population and Housing Census to the general public. The Census enumerated a total population of 9,933,868 or about 9.9 million. Of this total, 4.9 million were males and 5.0 million were females. The 1998 population grew from about 8.0 million in 1987 and represents a population growth rate of 2.0 percent per annum and an increase of 24 percent.

At regional level, the population in the Northern Region grew the fastest from around 900,000 in 1987 to about 1.2 million in 1998, depicting an annual population growth rate of 2.8 percent. The population in the Central Region grew from 3.1 million in 1987 to 4.1 million in 1998 and that in the Southern Region grew from around 4.0 million in 1987 to about 4.6 million in 1998. The annual population growth rates in the Central and Southern Regions were 2.4 and 1.4 percent respectively.

The Sex Ratio defined as the number of males per 100 females shows more females than males lived in Malawi in 1998. The final results show that about 51 percent of the total population enumerated in 1998 were females. This implies a sex ratio at national level of 96 males per 100 females.

Of the total population enumerated during the census, about 12 percent were enumerated in the Northern Region, 41 percent in the Central Region and 47 percent in the Southern Region.

Of the total population in Malawi, 14 percent lived in urban areas. However, 11 percent of the total population lived in the four major urban areas and only 3 percent live in the other urban areas (bomas and townships). Furthermore, urban population in Malawi had grown from about 850,000 in 1987 to around 1.4 million in 1998. This represents an annual growth rate of 4.7 percent and an increase of 68 percent during the 1987-1998 intercensal period.

The population density in 1998 was 105 persons per square kilometre. At regional level, the Northern Region (46) was the least densely populated whereas the Southern Region (146) was the most densely populated followed by the Central Region with 113 persons per square kilometre. At district level, Rumphi (27) was the least densely populated and Likoma (449), Blantyre (389) and Chiradzulu (307) were the most densely populated districts in Malawi.

The census results further reveal that around 5.7 million or 57 percent of the total population in Malawi used Chichewa as their language of communication in their households. The other languages most commonly used for communication within households were Chinyanja (13 percent), Chiyao (10 percent) and Chitumbuka (9 percent).

It is also noted that of the 9.9 million people enumerated, about 7.9 million (80 percent) were Christians and a further 1.3 million (13 percent) were Moslems.

The census enumerated about 8.3 million persons aged 5 years or older. Of this total, 4.8 million (58 percent) were able to read and write a particular language. The results reveal that the literacy rate increased from 42 percent in 1987 to 58 percent in 1998, an increase of 38 percent. Literacy rates among males and females stood at 64 and 51 percent respectively as compared to 52 and 32 percent for males and females respectively in 1987.

The results further show that of the total population aged 5 years or older, 2.7 million or about a third had never attended any school. About 2.4 million were attending primary, secondary or university education during the one-month period prior to the census; that is, in August 1998.

The census results also show that there were about 5.7 million persons aged 20 years or less. Of these, about 5.1 million (90 percent) reported that both their parents were alive. Furthermore about 147,000 (3 percent) reported that their mothers were not alive; 333,000 (6 percent) reported that their fathers were not alive and around 88,000 (2 percent) reported that both their parents were dead.

In 1998 there were about 6.8 million persons aged 10 years or older. Of this total around 4.5 million (66 percent) were economically active. Of the economically active population, the majority (78 percent) were subsistence farmers (Mlimi) while 13 percent were employees.

The census results show that the majority of households in Malawi were male headed. Of the 2.3 million households enumerated in the country about 69 percent were headed by males.

It is also worth noting that in Malawi about 2.6 million (27 percent) had access to boreholes as their main source of drinking water while 2.5 million (25 percent) drew their drinking water from unprotected wells. A further 21 percent used either piped water or communal standpipes as their main sources of drinking water.

The final results also indicate that around 7.2 million (73 percent) of the total population had access to traditional pit latrines while 2.2 million (22 percent) had no access to any toilet facility.

It is also noted that the majority of Malawians (94 percent) used firewood as their main source of energy for cooking and 90 percent of them used paraffin for lighting. Only 2 percent used electricity as a source of energy for cooking and 5 percent for lighting. Furthermore, about 4.9 million or roughly half of the total population had access to at least one radio and 4.0 million (41 percent) had access to at least a bicycle.

Further information on the results can be obtained from:

The Commissioner for Census and Statistics, P.O. Box 333, Zomba

Phone 524 377, 524 111, Fax 525 130, E-mail:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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