POPULATIONAt the time of the 1981 census, the total population of Nepal was 15,022,839, the average family was made up of 5.8 persons, and life expectancy at birth was close to fifty years. As of July 1990, the population was estimated at 19,145,800 persons. The annual population growth rate increased from less than 2 percent during the 1950s to more than 2.6 percent in 1990, suggesting that despite a trend toward increasing acceptance of family planning, the program did not have much influence on reducing the population growth rate. The Central Bureau of Statistics forecast that the total population would increase to 23.6 million by 2001.
The 1981 census reveals a significant variation in regional growth rates. Although the Tarai Region's annual growth rate of 4.2 percent was much higher than the national average, the Hill and Mountain regions, respectively, posted growth rates of 1.7 and 1.4 percent. In terms of regional distribution, 43.6 percent (6,556,828 persons) of the country's population resided in the Tarai, whereas the shares of the Hill and Mountain regions totaled 7,163,115 (47.7 percent) and 1,302,896 (8.7 percent), respectively.
About 70 percent of the total population was of working age, or between the ages of fifteen and fifty-nine years. More than 65 percent of this segment of the population was considered economically active in 1981. In terms of employment structure, more than 91 percent of the economically active population was engaged in agriculture and allied activities, and the rest in the secondary (industrial) and tertiary (service) sectors, including government employment. In 1981 males and females who were widowed or separated constituted only a tiny fragment of the population--0.4 percent for each sex.