Demographics - Population of Belarus, 1992–2003.
Ethnic Belarusians, comprising 81.2% of the country's total population, constitute an overwhelming majority in Belarus. Russians make up the second largest ethnic group, with 11.4% of the population, while ethnic Poles and Ukrainians account for 3.9% and 2.4% respectively. Languages commonly spoken in Belarus include Russian and Belarusian. Both are recognized as official as of a 1995 referendum. Within Belarus, the Belarusian language is declared to be a "language spoken at home" by ~3,686,000 (36.7%) of the inhabitants, according to a 1999 national census. Apart from Belarusian and Russian, sizable minorities also speak Polish, Ukrainian and Eastern Yiddish.
Population density is about 50 persons per square kilometre (127/sq mi), with 71.7% of the total population concentrated in urban areas. Of the urban population, 24% lives in Minsk, the national capital and largest city. The total population in Minsk is approximately 1,741,400 people. Homel, with 481,000 people, is the second largest city and serves as the capital of the Homel Oblast. Other large cities are Mogilev (365,100), Vitebsk (342,400), Hrodna (314,800) and Brest (298,300).
Some 69.7 percent of the population are between the ages of 14 and 64, while 16 percent of the population is under 14, and 14.6 percent are aged 65 or older. The median age 37. The average life expectancy for Belarusian citizens is 68.72 years: for males it is 63.03 years, and for females it is 74.96 years. The literacy rate in Belarus (the number of people aged 15 and older who can read and write) is 99%, with men at 99.8% and women at 99.3%. The male-to-female ratio in 2005 was estimated to be .88 males to every female.
Most demographic indicators for Belarus resemble other European countries, with both the population growth rate and the natural growth rate in the negative. Population growth stood at −0.06% in 2005, with a fertility rate of 1.43. The population is also growing older, and by the year 2050, it is estimated that the majority of the population will be over the age of 50. The migration rate is +2.3 for every 1,000 people in Belarus.
According to a Save the Children international organization report (comparing 167 countries), Belarus has the highest rating for the quality of life for women and children among all countries in the former Soviet Union. Belarus ranked sixteenth for mothers' quality of life, fourteenth for women's quality of life, and twentieth for the quality of life of children. The closest former Soviet republics are Estonia (ranking eighteenth for women's quality of life), Ukraine (21/31/26 respectively), and Russia (27/34/64 respectively).
Belarus has historically been a Russian Orthodox country, with minorities practicing Catholicism, Judaism, and other religions. According to Article 16 of the Constitution, Belarus has no official religion.
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