Countryaah, birth rates were high until the 1990s and there is still
a large proportion of young people in the population.
Immigration is scarce, but many people leave Burma every
year. In official statistics there is no information on how
large this emigration is. International organizations
estimate that more than 2 million Burmese exist in
surrounding countries as refugees or as guest workers. Among
other things, there are 150,000 in refugee camps within the
Thai border. It has not been uncommon for government-decided
removals within the country by ethnic groups.
The average population density, 79 residents per km2
(2019), is lower than in neighboring countries, but the
differences within Burma are large. Tightest populated area
around Yangon with more than 400 per km2 and Irrawaddy Delta
and Mandalayregionen (over 150 people per km2),
while Kachin- and Chinstaterna has only just over 10 per
km2. In 2019, 29 percent of the population lived in cities.
Among the cities are Rangoon (4.7 million residents, 2014),
Mandalay (1.2 million residents) and the new capital
For information on life expectancy and other demographic
statistics, see Country facts.
Burma's more than 60 people can roughly be divided into
two main groups, on the one hand those who live on the plain
and in the valleys, on the other the mountain people. This
classification is not only ecological but sociocultural in a
wider sense. In the lowlands, the residents are Buddhists
and rely mostly on wetland cultivation; politically they are
hierarchical, organized in traditional states or the
principality. The mountain people live on sweat farming and
grow mountain rice, maize, millet, root vegetables and
vegetables; For some groups, hunting is an important part of
the economy. They form egalitarian tribal communities and
have local "animist" tribal religions.
The people living on the plain make up about 85 percent
of Burma's population. The majority are the Burmese,
just over 70 percent of the total population. They speak
Burmese and live in the plain along the Chindwin, Irrawaddy
and Sittang rivers, along the Arakan and Tenasserim coasts.
In addition to wetland cultivation, they feed on fishing and
in central Burma also on the cultivation of cotton, maize
and tobacco. The Burmese are sometimes also counted
among the Burmese. The monk-Khmer-speaking monpeople
founded one of Southeast Asia's oldest civilizations; they
were the driving force in the spread of Theravada Buddhism
during the 600s and 700s. Today there are close to 1 million
people in Burma, most in the area around Moulmein. They feed
in the same way as the Burmese, but to a greater extent keep
pets (buffalo, pigs, ducks and chickens).
In the cultural sense, shan (about 3 million),
who lives on the high plateau in the country's eastern part,
also belongs to the border with Thailand, Laos and China.
Shan speaks Thai; In addition to wet rice cultivation, they
supply themselves with trade in, among other things,
home-made ceramics, varnish and silver works and cotton
Although most of the people living on the plain are
Buddhists, in their religion there is a strong element of
spirit worship (nat among Burmese and shan, phi
thong among mon), and the difference between Buddhism
and the peoples' religions is therefore not absolute.
The mountain people consist of a large number of ethnic
groups and subgroups. The Karenas (about 3 million)
are found along the entire eastern border of Thailand; only
about 1/3 of them still live as mountain people, while the
rest now grow wet rice and are Buddhists. Their languages
form their own group within the Sino-Tibetan languages.
Related to the karen are kayah, formerly called
the red karen, who live between the karen and shan
areas. In the shan area's mountainous regions are smaller
groups of monk-Khmer-speaking palaung and wa,
as well as the Tibetan-Burmese lisu, lahu
and akha. In the Shan area and in the northernmost
part of the country are the Tibetan Burmesekachin
(about 540,000); many kachin villages are politically linked
to shan. Another 500,000 Kachin live elsewhere in Burma. In
the west, along the border with India, there is chin
(1.5 million); they are divided into a number of subgroups
and feed partly on burning, and partly on trade with the
lowland population on both the Burmese and the Indian side
of the border. North of chin are smaller groups of naga.
The socio-cultural divide in the Plains and Mountains has
since the 1960s been often overshadowed by the political
contradiction between the Burmese state-bearing on the one
hand and the minorities, on the other. both mon, arakan,
karen, shan and the actual mountain people. These
minorities, which have gradually organized themselves into
the resistance movement National Democratic Front, demand
The official language is Burmese, a Tibetan Burmese
language spoken by more than 2/3 of the population. To some
extent, English is used in the teaching system and
administration. Among the nearly 100 minority languages are
the Tibetan Burmese kare, chin and kachin, the tais language
shan and the mon - khmer language mon. See also Population
and Ethnography above. Significant immigrant minorities
speak Chinese or various Indian languages, mainly Hindi,
Bengali and Punjabi.
In Burma, about 75% of the residents are Buddhists.
Ceylonese chronicles tell that as early as Ashoka (250 BC)
sent Buddhist missionaries to one of the kingdoms of what
was then Burma, probably the moneland (see mon). Among the
pyu people in central Burma (200-832 AD), there were both
Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism and Tantric Buddhism. In
1057, when they finally triumphed over the monarchy from the
northern immigrant Burmese, theravada Buddhism became
official religion and has since dominated. The Buddhist
monks, including novices, are estimated today (2010) to
amount to more than 400,000. Burma is rich in pagodas
(stupor), including Shwe Dagon (Golden Pagoda) in Rangoon
with its relics of several Buddhas. Popular Buddhism
includes the worship of local spiritual spirits (nats).
Almost 10% of the population is said to practice
traditional domestic religion. The Christian share of the
population amounts to about 8%. The oldest among the
Christian communities is the Catholic Church, which began to
operate in the country in 1544. The presence of the
Protestants began in 1813 with a Baptist mission from the
United States. Baptists are today the largest of the
Christian communities in the country with 3.5% of the
population as members. Just under 4% (probably a too low
figure) of the population is said to be Muslims, most of
whom are Sunni. About 2% practice Hinduism.
When Burma became British in 1885, this led to
Buddhist-inspired messianic movements; Buddhism is
associated with the national ideology directed at colonial
power. President U Now in 1961 temporarily made a
Buddhist-Marxist syncretism into state religion. His
successor, Ne Win, who initially distinguished between
religion and politics, also adopted Buddhism in 1979 as a
socialist ideology in the service of state-building. In
2007, new social unrest erupted by Buddhist monks broke out.
More than 100,000 people demonstrated with demands for the
fall of the military dictatorship, but as before, the
demonstrations were defeated by force of arms.
Burma has no state religion, but Buddhism has a special
status in the constitution. Through special agencies, the
government oversees Buddhist monks and Buddhist schools. The
curriculum for public schools includes Buddhist doctrines
and the school day begins with a Buddhist prayer. All
citizens have the right to freely confess and practice their
religion, but in practice there are many obstacles to, for
example, Muslims and Christians in their religious practice.
In some states, Muslims must request permission from local
authorities to leave their homes. Religious officials are
not allowed to vote or hold public services. Only the mouth
ordinances accepted by the government are allowed. In recent
years, the government has taken some initiatives to support
a religious dialogue. A non-political charity consisting of
The following religious holidays are national holidays in
Burma: the day of the full moon in the month of March
(Tabaung) which is the last month of the Burmese lunar
calendar; The Water Festival (Thingyan), which ends the
Burmese lunar month, usually in April; first full moon in
May (Kason) in memory of Buddha's birth, enlightenment and
attainment of nirvana; the first full moon in July is
celebrated in memory of Buddha's first sermon and is the
beginning of the Buddhist fasting period and the first full
moon in October is the closing day of fasting; the first
full moon in November (Tazaungmone), when new clothes are
woven and sewn to monks and buddha statues. Government-run
newspapers state dates for the Hindu festival of Diwali, as
well as for the Islamic festival of Bakrid (Id al-adha). On
these two weekends, banks and government offices are closed.
The Christian Christmas Day is also a national holiday.