After 17 years of dictatorship under General Augusto Pinochet, democracy was reintroduced in Chile in 1990. Ever since the colonial era, copper exports have played a key role in the country’s economy, which is among the most stable and competitive in Latin America.
Key figures and facts
- Capital: Santiago
- Ethnic groups: European and European-Native American origin (mestis) 88.9%, mapucher 9.1%, aymara 0.7 other indigenous people 1%, other 0.3% (2012)
- Language: Spanish (official) 99.5%, English 10.2%, different languages among national minorities 1%, other 2.5% (2012) Together make up more than 100% as several of the citizens speak more than one language
- Religion: Catholics 66.7%, evangelical Christians or Protestants 16.4%, Jehovah’s Witnesses 1% others 3.4%, non-religious 11.5%, unspecified 1.1 (2012)
- Population: 18 197 209 (2017)
- Control Form: Republic
- Area: 756 096 Km2
- Currency: Chilean peso
- GNP per capita: 23 194 PPP $
- National Day: September 18th
Chile has 17 373 831 residents, according to the preliminary figures from the census in 2017. The country had an annual population growth of 0.8 percent in 2016, down from 1.2 percent in 2000. Life expectancy is 81.5 years for women and 75.5 years for men, which is one of South America’s highest. On average, Chilean women give birth to 2 children (2005), which is a fall from the 1950s, when the average was 5 children. The infant mortality rate is 7.9 per 1000 children born (2005). The age group between 15 and 19 years constitutes the largest part; 1 473 222 residents. The age group from 65 years onwards constitutes 1,390,812 of the residents.
The population density in the country is 22.3 residents per square kilometer (2009). After the debt crisis in 1982, economic development has been strong, especially in the export industries such as the copper, agriculture and fisheries sectors. This development has brought more people to cities.
More than 90 percent of the country’s population lives between Copiapó in the north and Concepción in the south. The northern and southern regions are very sparsely populated. In the capital Santiago, 40 percent of the population lives (5,012,973 residents) and the city has the highest population density; 443.5 residents per square kilometer.
Only 13 percent live in rural areas, that is 2,176,688 residents. The regions with the highest population in the countryside are Maule (33%) and Araucanía (32%), both south of Santiago. Especially since the 1960s there has been a significant move in to the cities, and 87 percent live in cities and towns. Other major cities are (2009): Concepción (1 004 648 residents), Valparaíso (969 846 residents), Antofagasta (360 743 residents), Viña del Mar (291 760 residents) and Temuco (298 575 residents).
The country’s original population was indigenous people. In the south lived firefighters, in the middle parts of Araucans and in the north members of various Aymara people. In the 16th century, the Spaniards came; after 1846 there has been a significant immigration of Germans (especially in the south), British and Italians and others, but not as much as in Argentina and Brazil, for example. In the years 1880-1900 many came from the Balkans, especially Serbs and Croats, to try themselves as gold diggers.
The majority of the population today are miseries (blend of whites and indigenous people). In the lower strata of the population, the proportion of indigenous people dominates, while the population among the upper class is predominantly white. 4.6 percent of the population claim to belong to one of the indigenous groups. The Mapu people are the largest and make up 87.3 percent. Other indigenous groups include alcalufe (0.4%), atacameño (3%), aymara (7%), colla (0.5%), quechua (0.9%), rapa nui(0.7%), yamana (0.2%). The majority of the indigenous people live in the IX region, followed by the capital, X, VIII and I region. Indigenous people living in the countryside make up a larger percentage than the rest of the population (35.2% in total) and indigenous women have on average 1 child more than the rest of the population. The indigenous population is on average younger than the rest of the population and the largest part is between 10 and 40 years.
Population at work
In 2005, 56.9 percent of the entire population was employed, 73.8 percent of the male population and 40.6 percent of the female population. The unemployment rate for the same year was 9.2 percent, an increase from 7.4 percent in 1995. The female share of the labor force increased by 10.7 percent between 1990 and 2005, while the male part of the population declined by 1, 6 percent. Of the economic sectors, the tertiary industry in relation to workers grew by 43.1 percent between 1992 and 2002, while the primary industry declined by 20.5 percent and the secondary industry by 1.1 percent.
About 76.8 percent of the population are Catholics. The Protestants make up approximately 13 percent (especially Pentecostal and Lutheran). About 6 percent consider themselves non-religious or atheist. 64.8 percent of indigenous groups consider themselves Catholics. There are also approximately 100,000 Mormons, 15,000 Jews and a few thousand Muslims and Orthodox. About 500,000 confirm having another religion. In Chile, state and church are divided. In the Chilean constitution, freedom of religion is established.
The country’s official language is Spanish. Spanish language in Chile differs from European Spanish in pronunciation, inter alia in that the play sound [þ] is pronounced [s], in the syntax and in the vocabulary. The Chilean dialect is relatively different from neighboring countries because the last syllable and s are often cut. In addition, the Chilean dialect has a number of distinctive words and expressions. There is little difference between the dialects within the country, but there is clear inequality between sociologists from different social strata.
Of the indigenous languages spoken including Mapudungun, Quechua, Aymara and Rapa Nui. After the Spanish conquest of the country, Spanish took over as the official language and the indigenous languages have become minority languages. In southern Chile, German and Croatian are also spoken.