Malawi People - 2021


GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES  Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese


20,308,502 (July 2021 est.)

note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected

country comparison to the world: 62


noun: Malawian(s)

adjective: Malawian

Ethnic groups

Chewa 34.3%, Lomwe 18.8%, Yao 13.2%, Ngoni 10.4%, Tumbuka 9.2%, Sena 3.8%, Mang'anja 3.2%, Tonga 1.8%, Nyanja 1.8%, Nkhonde 1%, other 2.2%, foreign 0.3% (2018 est.)


English (official), Chewa (common), Lambya, Lomwe, Ngoni, Nkhonde, Nyakyusa, Nyanja, Sena, Tonga, Tumbuka, Yao

note: Chewa and Nyanja are mutually intelligible dialects; Nkhonde and Nyakyusa are mutually intelligible dialects


Protestant 33.5% (includes Church of Central Africa Presbyterian 14.2%, Seventh Day Adventist/Baptist 9.4%, Pentecostal 7.6%, Anglican 2.3%), Roman Catholic 17.2%, other Christian 26.6%, Muslim 13.8%, traditionalist 1.1%, other 5.6%, none 2.1% (2018 est.)

Demographic profile

Malawi has made great improvements in maternal and child health, but has made less progress in reducing its high fertility rate. In both rural and urban areas, very high proportions of mothers are receiving prenatal care and skilled birth assistance, and most children are being vaccinated. Malawi’s fertility rate, however, has only declined slowly, decreasing from more than 7 children per woman in the 1980s to about 5.5 today. Nonetheless, Malawians prefer smaller families than in the past, and women are increasingly using contraceptives to prevent or space pregnancies. Rapid population growth and high population density is putting pressure on Malawi’s land, water, and forest resources. Reduced plot sizes and increasing vulnerability to climate change, further threaten the sustainability of Malawi’s agriculturally based economy and will worsen food shortages. About 80% of the population is employed in agriculture.

Historically, Malawians migrated abroad in search of work, primarily to South Africa and present-day Zimbabwe, but international migration became uncommon after the 1970s, and most migration in recent years has been internal. During the colonial period, Malawians regularly migrated to southern Africa as contract farm laborers, miners, and domestic servants. In the decade and a half after independence in 1964, the Malawian Government sought to transform its economy from one dependent on small-scale farms to one based on estate agriculture. The resulting demand for wage labor induced more than 300,000 Malawians to return home between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s. In recent times, internal migration has generally been local, motivated more by marriage than economic reasons.

Age structure

0-14 years: 45.87% (male 4,843,107/female 4,878,983)

15-24 years: 20.51% (male 2,151,417/female 2,195,939)

25-54 years: 27.96% (male 2,944,936/female 2,982,195)

55-64 years: 2.98% (male 303,803/female 328,092)

65 years and over: 2.68% (male 249,219/female 318,938) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 83.9

youth dependency ratio: 79.1

elderly dependency ratio: 4.9

potential support ratio: 20.6 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 16.8 years

male: 16.7 years

female: 16.9 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 221

Population growth rate

2.39% (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 26

Birth rate

28.59 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 35

Death rate

4.66 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 203

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 87

Population distribution

population density is highest south of Lake Nyasa as shown in this population distribution map


urban population: 17.7% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 4.41% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

1.171 million LILONGWE (capital), 962,000 Blantyre-Limbe (2021)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 0.99 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 0.98 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.99 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.93 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female

total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

19.1 years (2015/16 est.)

note: median age at first birth among women 20-49

Maternal mortality rate

349 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 31

Infant mortality rate

total: 34.19 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 38.61 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 29.71 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 49

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 72.16 years

male: 69.04 years

female: 75.33 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 157

Total fertility rate

3.51 children born/woman (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 39

Contraceptive prevalence rate

59.2% (2015/16)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 95.9% of population

rural: 87.3% of population

total: 88.7% of population

unimproved: urban: 4.1% of population

rural: 12.7% of population

total: 11.3% of population (2017 est.)

Current Health Expenditure

9.3% (2018)

Physicians density

0.04 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Hospital bed density

1.3 beds/1,000 population (2011)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 58.2% of population

rural: 35.9% of population

total: 39.6% of population

unimproved: urban: 41.8% of population

rural: 64.1% of population

total: 60.4% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

8.1% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 9

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

990,000 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 11

HIV/AIDS - deaths

12,000 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 18

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

vectorborne diseases: malaria and dengue fever

water contact diseases: schistosomiasis

animal contact diseases: rabies

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

5.8% (2016)

country comparison to the world: 173

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

9% (2019)

country comparison to the world: 62

Education expenditures

4.7% of GDP (2018)

country comparison to the world: 72


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 62.1%

male: 69.8%

female: 55.2% (2015)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 11 years

male: 11 years

female: 11 years (2011)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 40.5%

male: 33.1%

female: 47.7% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 8

NOTE: The information regarding Malawi on this page is re-published from the 2021 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Malawi 2021 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Malawi 2021 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 16 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.