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The Maldives had a population of 392,709 in July 2017. On a total land area of 298 km2, this means that there are approximately 1309 inhabitants per km2. If one does not count the uninhabited islands, the population density rises to over 2,000 people per km2, making the Maldives one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

The population density of the island on which the capital is located is even extremely high. On 1.8 km2 live 65,000 people and that means more than 35,000 people per km2! The island of Kandholhudhoo is even more densely populated with more than 50,000 people per km2! Yet there are only five islands where more than 4,000 people live. Hithadhoo is the second largest city in the Maldives with 10,000 inhabitants. The average life expectancy of the Maldivian is 75.8 years. The population structure of the Maldives is very uneven; for example, more than 40% of the population is under the age of 25.

There are almost no distinct population groups in the Maldives. The homogeneous population only shows different racial characteristics of all the immigrants who settled in the Maldives over the centuries. The only ethnic minority are the former inhabitants of the island of Giravaaru. These descendants of Tamils from Sri Lanka with their dark skin and own dialect live scattered on some islands because their own island was declared uninhabitable.

The only foreigners who reside more or less permanently in the Maldives are guest workers from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

From the Middle Ages onwards, the Maldives had a fairly rigid class division. The highest class consisted of friends and family of the sultans. Fandithas, traditional healers, artisans and boatmen (keyolhu) belonged to the middle class. Fishermen and sailors belonged to the lowest class. At the very bottom of the social ladder were the toddy-tappers who harvested coconuts and tapped juice from the bark of the coconut palm. This classification no longer plays a major role today. Economic progress and a higher general level of education have made the differences much less obvious.

Of particular note is that the divorce rate in the Maldives is around 80%. Important reasons for this are that until 1996 people got married at a very young age and the very flexible divorce procedures. The government tried to reduce these practices. The minimum age at which one may marry has now been set at 18. Officially, one must now apply for divorce through the courts.


Derksen, G. / Maldiven

Ellis, R. / Maldives

Lyon, J. / Maldives
Lonely Planet

Vliet, E. van / Reishandboek Malediven

Voigtmann, H. / Malediven

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info