Uruguay is among Latin America’s most successful countries in many areas. This may be partly because the land was not utilized to the same extent as other former Latin American colonies.
Key figures and facts
- Capital: Montevideo
- Ethnic groups: European origin 87.7%, African origin 4.6%, other 7.7%
- Language: Spanish (official), portunol, brazilero (mixes between Portuguese and Spanish)
- Religion: Catholics 47.1%, Non-Catholic Christians 11.1%, Autonomous Churches 23.2%, Jews 0.3%, Atheists/Agnostics 17.2%, Other 1.1% (2006)
- Control Form: constitutional republic
- Area: 176 220 km2
- Currency: peso
- GNP per capita: 21 620 PPP $
- National Day: August 25th
The population of Uruguay is estimated to be 3,518,552 in 2019. Annual population growth is 0.3 percent. Life expectancy is 80.98 years for women and 74.36 years for men (2019). 19.87 percent of the population is under 15, while 14.42 percent is over 65 (2019).
Uruguay differs from most other countries in South America in that it has had low birth rates for a long time. The birth rate in 2019 is expected to be 12.19 per thousand residents, while the death rate is estimated to be 9.39. The average age of first-borns is 27.82 years. In 2004, 0.37 percent of those who gave birth to children under 15 years of age, while 14.84 percent were between 15 and 19 years of age.
Work and poverty
At the beginning of the 2000s, some younger people of working age moved abroad, due to economic downturn and high unemployment in Uruguay. In April 2019, unemployment in the country was 8 percent. When it comes to child labor, it is estimated that around 30,000 children between the ages of 5 and 17 work. This represents about 1 percent of all Uruguayan children between the ages of 5 and 11, and 12.7 percent of all children between the ages of 12 and 17 (2011 figures). The Gini coefficient for Uruguay is at 0.39 (World Bank, 2017). According to official figures, around 8 percent of the country’s population is poor, which is equivalent to 5.3 percent of all households (INE, 2018). In the capital Montevideo, 11.4 percent of the population is considered poor (INE, 2018).
In 2017, 295 788 people attended primary school. 263,958 people attended secondary school or high school in 2015. Uruguay has some private schools, but the vast majority in Uruguay study at public educational institutions. 24.2 percent of the population has attended school for more than 13 years, while 5.5 percent of the population has 0 to 3 years in school (2017).
Prior to independence, Uruguay was very sparsely populated. Between 1836 and 1926, approximately 648,000 immigrants, most from Italy and Spain. In the latest official census, 90 percent of Uruguay’s population define themselves as white, 6 percent as blacks, 3 percent as “Native Americans,” 0.4 percent as Asians, while the rest have not answered this question (INE, 2011) Of the indigenous populations there are only a few traces left; the charrua died about 1830, and of the guaranese there are only a few families left.
92 percent of the population lives in cities and towns with more than 5000 residents (2019). Fewer people live in rural areas now, compared to a few years ago. The population density is greatest in the country’s southern and southwest, along the Río de la Plat a. Over half of the population lives in and around the capital Montevideo; other major cities are Salto and Paysandú.
The official language is Spanish. Along the border with Brazil is a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese, often defined as portuñol.
In Uruguay, the state and church are separate, and the constitution states full religious freedom in the country. The Catholic Church has a population support of approximately 77 percent. There are minorities of Protestants (Adventists and Baptists), Jews and Baha’is.