Population of Malawi 2017


Current population of Malawi is 19,196,246 people (July 2017 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 (July 2017 est.)


noun: Malawian(s)
adjective: Malawian

Ethnic Groups

Chewa 34.7%, Lomwe 19.1%, Yao 13.4%, Ngoni 11.8%, Tumbuka 9.4%, Sena 3.6%, Tonga 1.8%, Nyanja 1.1%, Nkhonde 0.8%, other 1.8% (2015 est.)


English (official), Chichewa (common), Chinyanja, Chiyao, Chitumbuka, Chilomwe, Chinkhonde, Chingoni, Chisena, Chitonga, Chinyakyusa, Chilambya


Protestant 26.9%, Catholic 18.1%, other Christian 41.9%, Muslim 12.5%, other 0.1%, none 0.5% (2015 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: 46.34% (male 4,427,403/female 4,468,120)
15-24 years: 20.55% (male 1,956,360/female 1,988,123)
25-54 years: 27.41% (male 2,612,840/female 2,648,997)
55-64 years: 3.01% (male 275,998/female 302,286)
65 years and over: 2.69% (male 227,582/female 288,537) (2017 est.)

Dependency Ratios

total dependency ratio: 91
youth dependency ratio: 85.3
elderly dependency ratio: 5.7
potential support ratio: 17.4 (2015 est.)

Median Age

total: 16.5 years
male: 16.3 years
female: 16.6 years (2016 est.)

Population Growth Rate

3.3% (2017 est.)

Birth Rate

41 births/1,000 population (2017 est.)

Death Rate

7.9 deaths/1,000 population (2017 est.)

Net Migration Rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2017 est.)

Population Distribution

population density is highest south of Lake Nyasa


urban population: 16.6% of total population (2017)
rate of urbanization: 4.02% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major Urban Areas – Population:

LILONGWE (capital) 905,000; Blantyre-Limbe 808,000 (2015)

Sex Ratio

at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Mother’s Mean Age at First Birth

18.9 years

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2010 est.)

Maternal Mortality Rate

634 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant Mortality Rate

total: 44.8 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 51.5 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 38 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life Expectancy at Birth

total population: 61.2 years
male: 59.2 years
female: 63.2 years (2016 est.)

Total Fertility Rate

5.49 children born/woman (2017 est.)

Contraceptive Prevalence Rate

58.6% (2013)

Health Expenditures

11.4% of GDP (2014)

Physicians Density

0.02 physicians/1,000 population (2009)

Hospital Bed Density

1.3 beds/1,000 population (2011)

Drinking Water Source

urban: 95.7% of population
rural: 89.1% of population
total: 90.2% of population

urban: 4.3% of population
rural: 10.9% of population
total: 9.8% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation Facility Access

urban: 47.3% of population
rural: 39.8% of population
total: 41% of population

urban: 52.7% of population
rural: 60.2% of population
total: 59% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS – Adult Prevalence Rate

9.2% (2016 est.)

HIV/AIDS – People Living with HIV/AIDS

1 million (2016 est.)

HIV/AIDS – Deaths

24,000 (2016 est.)

Major Infectious Disease

degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria and dengue fever
water contact disease: schistosomiasis
animal contact disease: rabies (2016)

Obesity – Adult Prevalence Rate

4.3% (2014)

Children Under the Age of 5 Years Underweight

16.7% (2014)

Education Expenditures

5.6% of GDP (2015)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 62.1%
male: 69.8%
female: 55.2% (2015 est.)

School Life Expectancy (Primary to Tertiary Education)

total: 11 years
male: 11 years
female: 11 years (2011)

Child Labor – Children Ages 5-14

total number: 993,318
percentage: 26% (2006 est.)

Unemployment, Youth Ages 15-24

total: 8.6%
male: 9.1%
female: 8.2% (2013 est.)