Country Listing

Bhutan Table of Contents



Population: Estimates vary widely: 1,598,216 in July 1991 but possibly only 700,000. Two percent annual growth rate. Fortyfive percent under age fifteen in late 1980s. Ninety-seven percent in rural areas; low population density--thirty-one persons per square kilometer for total area, higher average for habitable land.

Ethnic Groups: Officially 72 percent of Bhutanese of Tibetan (Ngalop), Indo-Mongoloid (Sharchop), and aboriginal (Drokpa, Lepcha, and Doya) origin; 28 percent, Nepalese origin. Nepalese may constitute as much as 40 percent.

Language: Dzongkha official national language using chhokey (Tibetan script) used for written expression; Ngalopkha (on which Dzongkha is based) spoken in west; Sharchopkha in east; Nepali in south; English widely understood throughout school system and, with Dzongkha, an official language.

Religion: 70 percent Mahayana Buddhists (predominantly Drupka subsect), 25 percent Hindus, 5 percent Muslims. Indeterminate but small number of Bon adherents.

Education: Non-compulsory, free eleven-year education (primary--grades one through five; lower-secondary--grades six through eight; upper-secondary schools--grades nine through eleven). Primary level attended by about 23 percent of school-age population; lower-secondary and uper-secondary schools attended by around 8 percent and 3 percent, respectively. In 1991 one junior college and two technical schools. Entire system supervised by Department of Education. Literacy rate 12 percent in late 1980s.

Health: In early 1980s, life expectancy 45.9 for women and men. Infant mortality rate 137 per 1,000 in 1990. Health-care system in late 1980s included twenty-nine general hospitals, fortysix dispensaries, and sixty-seven basic-health units, four indigenous dispensaries, and fifteen malaria education centers with total capacity 915 beds. Severe shortage of health-care personnel: 134 physicians and 541 paramedics in 1988. Gastrointestinal infections most common illness.

Data as of September 1991