Country Listing

Uruguay Table of Contents



Figure 5. Population by Age and Sex, 1985

Based on information from Uruguay, Direccion General de Estadistica y Censos, Anuario estadistico, 1988, Montevido, 1989.

A flea market in Montevideo
Courtesy Edmundo Flores

In 1988 Uruguay's population was estimated at 3,081,000, up somewhat from the 2,955,241 inhabitants recorded in the 1985 census. From 1981 to 1988, the population growth rate averaged about 0.7 percent per year. In South America, only Guyana and Suriname had a lower growth rate. According to projections, the growth rate would continue in the 0.6 to 0.7 range through the year 2020, resulting in an estimated total population of 3,152,000 in 1995, 3,264,000 in 2000, and 3,679,000 in 2020 (see table 4, Appendix).

A major factor in Uruguay's low population growth rate was its relatively low birth rate. The average birth rate for 1990 was the lowest in Latin America at just 17 per 1,000 inhabitants. Significant levels of emigration also inhibited the growth of the population. At the same time, the average life expectancy of Uruguayans (seventy years for men and seventy-six years for women in 1990) was relatively high. Together, the comparatively low birth rate, net emigration, and long life expectancy gave Uruguay an aging population with a pyramidal structure more typical of a developed country than of a Third World country (see fig. 5).

In addition to its remarkably low population growth rate, low birth rate, high life expectancy, and aging population, Uruguay also was notable for its extremely high level of urbanization. According to the 1985 census, 87 percent of Uruguay's population could be classified as urban. Moreover, this trend was expected to continue because the urban population was continuing to grow at a faster rate than the population as a whole, while the rural population growth rate was well under that for the total population. In the 1981-88 period, Uruguay's urban population grew at a rate of 0.9 percent, while its rural population grew at a rate of only 0.3 percent (as compared with a total population growth rate of 0.7 percent).

Ethnically, Uruguay enjoyed a high level of homogeneity. Its population was estimated to be nearly 90 percent white, having descended from the original Spanish colonists as well as from the many European immigrants, chiefly from Spain and Italy, who flocked to Uruguay in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (The remainder were primarily black and mestizo, or people of mixed Indian and European ancestry.)

Data as of December 1990