Demographics of Nepal

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Nepal's population (1960-2010)

The population of Nepal is estimated to be 26,494,504 people based on the 2011 census, with a population growth rate of 1.596% and a median age of 21.6 years. Female median age is estimated to be 22.5 years, and male median age to be 20.7 years. Only 4.4% of the population is estimated to be more than 65 years old, comprising 681,252 females and 597,628 males. 61% of the population is between 15 and 64 years old, and 34.6% is younger than 14 years. Birth rate is estimated to be 22.17 births/1,000 population with an infant mortality rate of 44.54 deaths per 1000 live births. Life expectancy at birth is estimated to be 67.44 years for females and 64.94 years for males. The mortality rate is estimated to be 681 deaths per 100,000 people. Net migration rate is estimated to be 61 migrants per 100,000 people. According to the 2011 census, 65.9% of the total population is literate.[1]

Demographic history[edit]

Nepali or Nepalese or Gurkha or Gorkhali are descendants of migrants from parts of Kashmir, Greater Nepal, Tibet, and parts of Burma and Yunnan, and much further traces origin to Central Asia to Turkic people such as Kazakh (Mixed of Khas and Mongols), along with indigenous peoples.

Nepal is multicultural and multiethnic country because It became a country by occupying several small kingdoms in 18th century. The oldest settlements in northern Nepal are Kirants Mongoloid. The mountainous region is sparsely populated above 3,000 m (9,800 ft), but in central and western Nepal ethnic Sherpa and Lama people inhabit even higher semi-arid valleys north of the Himalaya. Kathmandu Valley, in the middle hill region, constitutes a small fraction of the nation's area but is the most densely populated, with almost 5 percent of the nation's population.

Population growth[edit]

Nepalese woman with baby
Elderly woman from Ghyaru in northern Nepal
Old Nepali woman

Vital statistics[edit]

UN estimates[edit]

Period Live births per year Deaths per year Natural change per year CBR1 CDR1 NC1 TFR1 IMR1
1975–1980 597 000 254 000 343 000 42.0 17.9 24.1 5.92 139.2
1980–1985 651 000 253 000 398 000 40.7 15.8 24.9 5.72 122.9
1985–1990 707 000 249 000 458 000 39.3 13.8 25.5 5.39 106.8
1990–1995 767 000 244 000 523 000 37.7 12.0 25.7 4.96 91.5
1995–2000 805 000 224 000 581 000 35.0 9.7 25.3 4.41 72.3
2000–2005 797 000 201 000 596 000 30.9 7.8 23.1 3.74 54.9
2005–2010 732 000 177 000 555 000 25.6 6.2 19.4 2.95 38.7
1 CBR = crude birth rate (per 1000); CDR = crude death rate (per 1000); NC = natural change (per 1000); TFR = total fertility rate (number of children per woman); IMR = infant mortality rate per 1000 births


Ethnic groups[edit]

Selected ethnic groups of Nepal;
     Madhesi,      Tharu,      Nepali Maithils,      Bhotia,      Sherpa,      Thakali,      Gurung,      Kiranti Sunuwar,      Rai,      Limbu,      Newari,      Pahari,      Tamang

Nepalese people have historically migrated from other countries ( mainly from Tibet or India), while few are from the Kathmandu Valley itself. The Northern Nepal and the North eastern region mainly consists of ethnic groups such as Gurung, Limbu, Rai, Sherpas, Tamangs and Thakalis whose ancestors comes from China, Mongolia or Tibet. The Central Nepal, mainly the Kathmandu valley, consists of Newars who are the original habitants of Nepal; the Southern Nepal or the Terai consists of people from mainly Indian ancestors in the neighbouring states of India (Bihar and Uttar Pradhesh) such as Tharus and Madhesis, while some groups of people such as Muslim origin people have also migrated to Terai from India and beyond.

Demographic statistics[edit]

Most Populous Caste/Ethnic groups (Census 2011)[3] Population  % of total
Khas-Chhetri (Kshatri) 4,398,053 16.6%
Khas/Hill-Brahmin 3,226,903 12.2%
Magar 1,887,733 7.1%
Tharu 1,737,470 6.5%
Tamang 1,539,830 5.8%
Newars (taken as a single linguistic group) 1,321,933 5.0%
Khas-Kami 1,258,554 4.7%
Muslim (taken as a single religious group) 1,164,255 4.4%
Yadav 1,054,458 4.0%
Rai 620,004 2.3%
Gurung 522,641 1.9%
Damai/Dholi 472,862 1.8%
Thakuri 425,623 1.6%
Limbu 387,300 1.4%
Sarki 374,816 1.41%
Teli 369,688 1.4%
Chamar/Harijan/Ram 335,893 1.3%
Koiri/Kushwaha 306,393 1.1%
Musahar 234,490 0.88%
Kurmi 231,129 0.87%
Sanyasi/Dasnami 227,822 0.86%
Dhanuk 219,808 0.8%
Dusadh/Pasawan/pasi 208,910 0.79%
Sherpa 112,946 0.4%
Other (more than 100 caste/ethnic groups) 4,229,290 15.9%

Nepal Demographic and Health Survey[edit]

Total Fertility Rate (TFR) (Wanted Fertility Rate) and Crude Birth Rate (CBR):[4]

Year CBR (Total) TFR (Total) CBR (Urban) TFR (Urban) CBR (Rural) TFR (Rural)
1996 37 4.64 (2,9) 27 2.85 (1,9) 38 4.83 (3,1)
2001 33.5 4.1 (2,5) 20.6 2.1 (1,4) 34.9 4.4 (2,6)
2006 28.4 3.1 (2,0) 21.9 2.1 (1,4) 29.5 3.3 (2,1)
2011 24.3 2.6 (1,8) 16.6 1.6 (1,2) 25.5 2.8 (1,8)

The following demographic statistics are from the 2011 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS).[5]

Median birth intervals (Median number of months since preceding birth)

Total: 36.2
Rural: 35.9
Urban: 40.3 (2011)

Median age at first birth

Median age: 20.1 (2011)

Fertility rate - past trend and present

Total fertility rate: 4.6 children born/woman (1996)
Total fertility rate: 4.1 children born/woman (2001)
Total fertility rate: 3.1 children born/woman (2006)
Total fertiltiy rate: 2.6 children born/woman
Rural fertility rate: 2.8 children born/woman
Urban fertility rate: 1.6 children born/woman (2011)

Ideal family size - Mean ideal number of children

Overall (female/male): 2.1 / 2.3
Currently married (female/male): 2.2 / 2.3
Urban (female/male): 1.9 / 2.0
Rural (female/male): 2.2 / 2.3 (2011)

Ideal family size by gender and age group

Below is a table of the ideal family size by gender and age for 2011.
Age Women Men
15-19 1.9 2.2
20-24 1.9 2.1
25-29 2.1 2.1
30-34 2.2 2.3
35-39 2.3 2.4
40-44 2.5 2.4
45-49 2.6 2.6

CIA World Factbook[edit]

The following demographic statistics are from the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise indicated.


noun: Nepali, Nepalese, Gorkhali (singular and plural)
adjective: Nepali, Nepalese, Gorkhali


Hindu 81.34%, Buddhist 9.04%, Muslim 4.38%, Kirant 3.04%, other 2.2% (2011 census).


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 48.6%
male: 62.7%
female: 34.9% (2001 census)


29,890,686 (July 2012 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 34.6% (male 5,177,264/female 4,983,864)
15-64 years: 61.1% (male 8,607,338/female 9,344,537)
65 years and over: 4.4% (male 597,628/female 681,252) (2011 est.)

Median age

total: 21.6 years
male: 20.7 years
female: 22.5 years (2011 est.)

Population growth rate

1.768% (2012 est.)

Birth rate

21.85 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Death rate

6.75 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)

Net migration rate

2.58 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Total fertility rate

2.41 children born/woman (2012 est.)


urban population: 19% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: 4.7% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.93 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2012 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 66.51 years
male: 65.26 years
female: 67.82 years (2012 est.)


Main article: Languages of Nepal

Nepal's diverse linguistic heritage evolved from three major language groups: Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman languages, and various indigenous language isolates. According to the 2001 national census, 92 different living languages are spoken in Nepal (a 93rd category was "unidentified"). The major languages of Nepal as of 2011 census.[6] (percent spoken as mother tongue language) includes

All the dialects of Nepali are not mutually intelligible. Wide regional variations exist. The dialect of Far Western Region is more similar to Kumaon than Nepali.

Nepali (derived from Khas bhasa) is considered to be a member of Indo-European language and is written in Devanagari script. Nepali was the language of the house of Gorkhas in the late 18th century and became the official, national language that serves as the lingua franca among Nepalese of different ethnolinguistic groups. Maithili—along with regional dialects Awadhi and Bhojpuri—are originated in Terai of Nepal and spoken in the southern Terai Region. Many Nepali in government and business uses English as an official language. English is the language of technical, medical and scientific community as well as the elite bankers, traders and entrepreneurs. There has been a surge in the number and percentage of people who understand English. Majority of the urban and a significant number of the rural schools are English-medium schools. Higher education in technical, medical, scientific and engineering fields are entirely in English.

Other languages, particularly in the Inner Terai, hill and mountain regions are remnants of the country's pre-unification history of dozens of political entities isolated by mountains and gorges. These languages typically are limited to an area spanning about one day's walk. Beyond that distance dialects and languages lose mutual intelligibility.


Further information: Religion in Nepal

As of the 2011 census, 81.3% of the Nepalese population was Hindu, 9.0% Buddhist, 4.4% Muslim, 3.0% Kirant/Yumaist, 1.42% Christian, and 0.9% followed other religions or no religion.[7]

Religion is important in Nepal; the Kathmandu Valley alone has more than 2,700 religious shrines. The dissolved constitution of Nepal described the country as a "Hindu kingdom", although it did not establish Hinduism as the state religion. Nepal's constitution continues long-standing legal provisions prohibiting discrimination against other religions (but also proselytization). The king was deified as the earthly manifestation of the Hindu god Vishnu. Then on May 19, 2006, the government facing a constitutional crisis, the House of Representatives which had been just reformed, having been previously dissolved, declared Nepal a "secular state".

The 2001 census identified 80.6% of the population as Hindu and 10.7% as Buddhist (although many people labeled Hindu or Buddhist often practice a synthetic blend of Hinduism, Buddhism, or animist traditions), 4.2% of the population was Muslim, 3.6% of the population followed the indigenous Kirant Mundhum religion and Christianity was practiced by 0.45% of the population.[8]

Buddhist and Hindu shrines and festivals are respected and celebrated by most Nepalese. Certain animist practices of old indigenous religions survive.

Ethnic and regional equity[edit]

Pahari Hill Hindus of the Khas Gorkha tribe (Bahun and Chhetri castes) and the Newar ethnicity dominated the civil service, the judiciary and upper ranks of the army throughout the Shah regime (1768–2008). Nepali was the national language and Sanskrit became a required school subject. Children who spoke Nepali natively and who were exposed to Sanskrit had much better chances of passing the national examinations at the end of high school, which meant they had better employment prospects and could continue into higher education. Children who natively spoke local languages of the Terai and Hills, or Tibetan dialects prevailing in the high mountains were at a considerable disadvantage. This history of exclusion coupled with poor prospects for improvement created grievances that encouraged many in ethnic communities such as Madhesi and Tharu in the Terai and Kham Magar in the mid-western hills to support the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and various other armed Maoist opposition groups such as the JTMM during and after the Nepalese Civil War. The negotiated end to this war forced King Gyanendra to abdicate in 2008. Issues of ethnic and regional equity have tended to dominate the agenda of the new republican government and continue to be divisive.[9][10][11][12][13]

Nepalese in the U.K.[edit]

Main article: Nepalese British

According to latest figure from Office for National Statistics estimates that 35,000 Nepal-born people are currently resident in the UK .[14]

Nepalese in Hong Kong[edit]

Nepali people in Hong Kong are mainly the children of ex-Gurkhas born in Hong Kong during their parents' service with the British Army's Brigade of Gurkhas, which was based in Hong Kong from the 1970s until the handover. Large groups can be found in Shek Kong, Yuen Long District, of the main bases of the British army. Many ex-Gurkhas remained in Hong Kong after the end of their service under the sponsorship of their Hong Kong-born children, who held right of abode.

Nepalese of middle age or older generations in Hong Kong are predominantly found in security, while those of younger generations are predominantly found in the business industry.

Nepalese overseas[edit]

Nepalese migrants abroad have suffered tremendous hardships, including some 7,500 deaths in the Middle East and Malaysia alone since the year 2000, some 3,500 in Saudi Arabia.[15]

Overseas Nepalese Population
Country Articles Population
India Nepalese Indian 12,100,000
Burma Burmese Gurkha 1,400,000
Saudi Arabia Nepalese in Saudi Arabia 250,000
Malaysia Nepalese people in Malaysia 217,587
United States Nepalese American 300,490
Bhutan Lhotshampa 50,000
Qatar Nepalis in Qatar 400,000[17]
Japan 36,107
United Arab Emirates Nepalese in the United Arab Emirates 150,000
United Kingdom[14] Nepalis in the United Kingdom 50,000
Iraq[18] 30,000
China Nepalis in China 21,000
Continental Europe 20,000
Hong Kong Nepalis in Hong Kong 16,000
Australia Nepalese Australian 35,000
South Korea Nepalis in South Korea 22,015
Singapore Nepalese in Singapore 4000
Canada Nepalese Canadian 6,000
Total Overseas Nepal Population ~15,643,000

Foreign population in Nepal[edit]

As per census of 2001 there are 116,571,000 foreign born citizens in Nepal out of which 90% are Indian origin[19] followed by Bhutan, Pakistan and China. This number does not include the refugees from Bhutan and Tibet.

Foreign population in Nepal as per census of 2001


  1. ^ CIA (2011) The World Factbook : Nepal.
  2. ^ "World Population Prospects, the 2012 Revision". 
  3. ^ "Nepal Demographics Profile 2014". IndexMundi. CIA World Factbook. 
  4. ^ "MEASURE DHS: Demographic and Health Surveys". 
  5. ^ "Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2011." (PDF). Retrieved 2011-05-07. 
  6. ^ "Official Summary of Census" (PDF). Central Bureau of Statistics, Nepal. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 2, 2012. 
  7. ^ "2011 Nepal Census Report" (PDF). p. 16. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 18, 2013. 
  8. ^ [1] Archived April 9, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "OCHA Nepal – Situation Overview" (PDF). Issue 12. OCHA. April 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 13, 2009. Retrieved 2011-05-07. 
  10. ^ "OCHA Nepal – Situation Overview" (PDF). Issue 16. OCHA. July–August 2007. Retrieved 2011-05-07. 
  11. ^ "OCHA Nepal – Situation Overview" (PDF). Issue 30. OCHA. June–July 2008. Retrieved 2011-05-07. [dead link]
  12. ^ Sharma, Hari (2010-11-18). "Body of murder victim found in Gulmi". Gulmi: The Himalayan Times online. Retrieved 2011-05-07. [dead link]
  13. ^ Hatlebakk, Magnus (2007). "Economic and social structures that may explain the recent conflicts in the Terai of Nepal" (PDF). Kathmandu: Norwegian Embassy. Retrieved 2011-05-08. 
  14. ^ a b "Population by Country of birth and nationality Jan10-Dec10". Office for National Statistics. September 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
  15. ^ "'Natural deaths’ raise doubts". 
  16. ^ Indian Gorkha
  17. ^ "Qatar's population - by nationality". bq Magazine. 
  18. ^ "Nepal government lifts Iraq working ban". BBC News. 
  19. ^ Subedi, Bhim Prasad (2007). "The Issue of Foreign Born Population in Nepal: A Short Essay in Honor of Dr. Harka Gurung". The Himalayan Review 38: 23–34. 

 This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook document "2003 edition".

External links[edit]