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Macau, The People of Macau

The population of Macau in 1991 was 355,693. By 2002 the population had increased to 461,833, yielding a very high population density of 21,153 persons per sq km (54,786 per sq mi). Much of Macauís recent and rapid population growth is a result of increased migration from other parts of China, largely from Guangdong Province. The peninsula is very densely crowded. The islands of Taipa and Coloane contain some undeveloped areas, but these are rapidly becoming urbanized.

Most people in Macau are ethnic Chinese and either came from, or their ancestors came from, Guangdong Province. Other groups living in the region include migrants from Hong Kong and Macanese people, who are of mixed Portuguese and Chinese ancestry.

Macau has two official languages: Cantonese, the regional Chinese dialect and the dominant tongue spoken by Macau residents, and Portuguese. Macanese have both Cantonese and Portuguese language skills. Many locals also speak Putonghua (Mandarin Chinese) and English. Most Chinese people in Macau are Buddhists, and the region contains several important Buddhist temples. Roman Catholicism, the religion of about 6 percent of the population, is the dominant Christian faith.

Education levels in Macau are low. Only about one-quarter of the population has a secondary-level education, and less than 5 percent has a college education. About 7 percent of the people are illiterate. Macau has one of the highest standards of living in Asia, $14,170 per capita in 2000. However, this wealth is concentrated in the hands of a relatively small, educated, and dominant elite. The region has a much larger number of poor residents who have problems finding adequate housing and jobs. Observers believe these difficulties are likely to increase if rural Chinese people continue to migrate from neighboring Guangdong Province, adding to the regionís already high population density.


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