This article is about the demographic features of the population of Malta, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.
Malta is the most densely populated country in the EU and one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with about 1,265 inhabitants per square kilometre (3,000 per square mile). This compares with about 32 per square kilometre (85 per square mile) for the United States. A census (held every 10 years) was held in November 2005.
Inhabited since prehistoric times, Malta was first colonized by Sicilians. Subsequently, Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs in 870 CE , Normans, Spanish, French and the British have influenced Maltese life and culture to varying degrees. Most of the foreign community in Malta, predominantly active or retired British nationals and their dependents, is centred on Sliema and surrounding modern suburbs. Other smaller foreign groups include Italians, French, and Lebanese, many of whom have assimilated into the Maltese nation over the decades.
Mass emigration picked up in the 19th century, reaching its peak in the decades after World War II. Migration was initially to north African countries (particularly Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt); later Maltese migrants headed towards the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia. There is little trace left of the Maltese communities in north Africa, most of them having been displaced, after the rise of independence movements, to places like Marseille, the United Kingdom or Australia. Although migration has ceased to be a social phenomenon of significance there are still important Maltese communities in Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. Since Malta joined the EU in 2004 expatriate communities emerged in a number of European countries particularly in Belgium and Luxembourg.
Roman Catholicism is established by law as the religion of Malta with 98%; however, full liberty of conscience and freedom of worship is guaranteed, and a number of faiths have places of worship on the island (extremely small sects, a combined total of 2% of the people are Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, Muslims and Jews).
Malta has two official languages--Maltese (a Semitic language derived from Siculo-Arabic and heavily influenced by Sicilian and Italian), and English. Both languages are compulsory subjects in Maltese primary and secondary schools. A large portion of the population is also fluent in Italian, which was, until 1936, the national language of Malta. The literacy rate has reached 93%, compared to 63% in 1946. Schooling is compulsory until age 16.
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