Mauritian Society

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Mauritius - Population
Mauritius

The estimated population of Mauritius in July 1993 was 1,106,516 with a population growth rate of 0.95 percent for 1993. According to the 1990 census the population was 1,065,988, of whom 34,292 lived on Rodrigues and 170 on outer islands. The country's population density, more than 537 inhabitants per square kilometer, is one of the highest in the world. The majority of the island's inhabitants are young; some 58.6 percent were under the age of twenty-nine in 1990. The capital, Port Louis, is the largest city, with a population of 142,645. Other large metropolitan areas, in descending order, are Beau BassinRose Hill, Vacoas-Phoenix, Curepipe, and Quatre Bornes. In 1991 the population was relatively evenly divided between those residing in rural and urban areas.

The rate of population increase grew to between 3 percent and 4 percent in the 1950s, resulting, in large part, from the elimination of malaria, higher living standards, and improved health care. Worried that such high growth rates would impede the island's development and tax its resources, the government and private groups instituted extensive family planning efforts. Family planning services were centralized under the administration of the Maternal and Child Health Care Division of the Ministry of Health in 1972, and together with the nongovernmental Action Familiale, which promoted natural techniques of birth control, reduced the country's birthrate significantly. The rate dropped to around 2 percent in the 1960s, and fell to 1.1 percent in 1973. In the 1980s, the rate fell below 1 percent. According to a Ministry of Health publication, the following methods of birth control were used in 1985: birth control pills, 40 percent; barrier methods, 21 percent; natural methods, 16 percent; intrauterine device (IUD), 10 percent; tubal ligation, 8 percent; Depo Provera, 5 percent. Abortion is illegal, but a Mauritian family planning official has estimated that there is one abortion for every live birth. The crude birthrate in 1991 was 20.7 births per 1,000 population, and the crude death rate stood at 6.6 per 1,000.

Ethnicity, Religion, and Language

Updated population figures for Mauritius.

Mauritius
Mauritius - Ethnicity, Religion, and Language
Mauritius

The forebears of the various ethnic groups composing Mauritian society arrived as settlers, slaves, indentured laborers, and immigrants. Although the country's past contains dark chapters of inequality and exploitation, modern Mauritian history has been remarkable for its relatively smooth and peaceful transition from colonial rule and the rule of large plantation owners to multiparty democracy.

"Harmonious separatism" is the way in which one writer characterizes communal relations in Mauritius. The term, however, does not preclude the existence of tensions. Ethnicity, religion, and language have been important factors in shaping the way Mauritians relate to each other in the political and social spheres. And despite the fact that sectarian factors are less of a determining factor in people's social and political behavior, they remain an important clue to the people's past and selfidentity .

The 1968 constitution recognized four population categories: Hindus, Muslims, Sino-Mauritians, and the general population. According to a 1989 estimate, of a total population of 1,080,000, Hindus constituted about 52 percent (559,440); the general population, about 29 percent (309,960); Muslims, about 16 percent (179,280); and Sino-Mauritians, about 3 percent (31,320).

The ancestors of the Hindu and Muslim populations came predominantly from the Indian subcontinent, and, from the censuses of 1846 to 1952, were classified as "Indo-Mauritians." The ancestral language of most Hindus is Hindi or Bhojpuri, with a minority of Tamil or Telegu speakers. Hindu immigrants brought with them the caste system. Upon arrival to the island, many members of lower castes upgraded their...
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