Demography of Bhutan
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Updated on September 02, 2003

DEMOGRAPHY

 

Bhutan does not have any indigenous group. It is a nation of immigrants and a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-linguistic society. There are three main ethnic, religious and linguistic groups and a dozen smaller groups.

The Ngalung - often called Drukpas - are the ruling group who control the monarchy and the government and dominate the economy. King and all the high Government Officials belong to this politically and economically dominant ethnic group. They live in the north-western region, speak Dzonkha language and wear robe like dresses. They migrated from Tibet. They are called Drukpas as they follow the Drukpa Kargyupa school of Mahayana Buddhism.

The second ethnic group is called Sharchop, who inhabit in eastern and central region and practice Nyingmapa sect of Mahayana Buddhism and belong to Tibeto-Burman ancestry. They speak Tsangla, Kurteop, Kheng and Brokpa dialects. They were supposedly migrated from North-east India.

The third ethnic group is called Lhotshampas ( meaning Southern Bhutanese) live in six southern foothill districts, speak Nepali language, practice mostly Hinduism and migrated from Nepal, Darjeeling and Sikkim in India.

All three ethnic groups migrated to Bhutan at different points of time in history, but before the exodus of British from India in 1947. There are other minority ethnic groups having their own distinct characteristics in terms of language, culture, religious practices etc. They are Tibetans, Doyas, Khengs, Adivashis, Brokpas Mangdepas and Kurteopas. In terms of religion and faith, Bhutanese people practise Hinduism, Christianity, Drukpa Kargyupa and Nyingmapa sects of Buddhism and Animism.

Each ethnic group of Bhutan have lived clustered together in separate regions. For example, the Nepali-speaking Lhotshampas lived in southern foothills, the Sharchops lived in eastern region and the Ngalungs lived in north-western regions. In Bhutan the census record is maintained in the district of origin, even though they are living in different parts like capital Thimphu. The government of Bhutan does not disclose the exact number of population. It has been a guarded secret. In the eighties the government put the figure at 1,165,800 and even increased to 1.4 million. The reason and the need for this inflated figure could not be ascertained. However, due to external pressure and after the dissident groups published the population figure at between 600,000 to 700,00, the king of Bhutan admitted in 1991 that the real number was just about 600,000.

 

In 1999, Bhutan's population was 657,548 according to the Planning Commission of the Royal Government of Bhutan. The following population figures have been derived form various government sources mention in the Note below:

 

Year             Population

1984 :          452,000  (1)

1994 :          564,000  (1)

1998 :          636,499  (1)

1999 :          657,548  (2)

2000 :             677,932  (3)

2001 :             698,950  (4)

2002 :          716423   (5)

 

Source

 

1. National Human Development Report 2000, Planning Commission Secretariat, Thimphu 2000, page 66

 

2. Bhutan At A Glance, 2000, Central Statistical Organization, Planning Commission Secretariat, Royal Government of Bhutan

 

3. Bhutan At A Glance, 2001 Planning Commission Secretariat, Thimphu 2001.

 

4. Bhutanís population growth rate was 3.1 percent according to the National Human Development Report 2000, Planning Commission Secretariat, Thimphu 2000, page number 12.  3.1 percent  growth rate added to the population figure of  2000 to arrive at 2001  population figures.

 

5. Bhutanís Prime ministerís annual government report presented to the national Assembly on July 03, 2004. Kuenselonline  July 04, 2003. In his report population growth was mentioned as 2.5 percent.  Thus, 2.5 percent  growth  rate added to the population figure  of 2001 to arrived at  population figures for 2002.

 

Total  population

The above population figure do not include the refugee population. In the year 2001, there were 110,800 Bhutanese refugees registered with the UNHCR ( as per UNHCR report, November, 2002). There were a total of approximately 135,000 Bhutanese refugees living in the UNHCR managed camps in Nepal and outside of the refugees camps in Nepal and India in 2001.

Thus,  the approximate total population of Bhutan including Bhutanese refugees in 2001 were 833,950 ( 698,950 + 135,000)

POPULATION ESTIMATE FOR 2001

The following unofficial demographic statistics have been derived by a complex system based on Government statistics, population figures of 1980 and 2000, UN, World Bank and other international sources. The following figures include the refugee population, about 125,000 living in refugee camps in Nepal, other parts of Nepal and India.

Ethnic Group Language

Number

% of population

Adivasis

Brokpa

Bumthangpa

Gongduk

Kheng

Kurteop

Lepcha

Lhop/Doya

Monpa

Ngalung

Sharchop

Tibetan

Lhotshampa

Total Inside Bhutan

 

Nepali-speaking refugees in Nepal/India

 

Grand Total

Uraon

Brokpa

Bumthangkha

Gongdukha

Khengkha

Kurteopakha

Lepcha

Lhopkha

Monpa

Dzonkha

Sarchapkkha/Tsangla

Tibetan

Nepali

-

 

 

Nepali

 

1,062

4,288

36,468

2,125

30,361

22,437

2,125

2,125

2,125

137, 195

199,040

3,188

256,461

699.900

 

 

135,000

 

 

834,900

00.12 %

00.51 %

04.37 %

00.26%

03.64 %

02.68 %

00.26 %

00.26 %

00.26%

16.50 %

23.92 %

00.39 %

30.82%

84.00%

 

 

16.00 %

 

 

100.00 %

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