Skip to main content

Main Area

Main

Smallest countries in the world

  • Smallest countries in the world

    The world’s biggest countries get the most attention, to be sure, whether it’s the presidential election in the United States, trade with China, politics in Russia, or the fate of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.

    But the countries with the smallest populations have big stories of their own.

    Some are struggling with too many people, like Mauritania and its neighbors in West Africa, where resources and services are falling short and hunger and disease are spreading. Places like Papua New Guinea and the Comoros have too many children who are not yet old enough to work and contribute economically.

    Many countries have what’s called a negative growth rate, meaning at the current pace, the number of people will dwindle as deaths outnumber births. That’s the case in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in the Balkans.

    More than a few are having crises traced to political traumas, especially former Soviet republics and satellites like Moldova, Estonia, Latvia, and Bulgaria, which have struggled since the dissolution of the superpower in the early 1990s.

    Some are small yet inundated with migrants and asylum seekers traveling in search of better lives. That’s true of Libya, Cyprus, and tiny Djibouti at the Suez Canal. Wealthy nations like Singapore, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain are bursting with guest laborers brought in from other countries to cook, clean, and build.

    Others are seeing waves of departures, as residents leave in droves, fleeing gang violence in El Salvador, harsh conscription in Eritrea, war in Lebanon, rising seas in Kiribati, and joblessness in Tonga.

    Many small countries survive only because those who leave send money back home as remittances, such as Kyrgyzstan, the Gambia, Kosovo, Guyana, and Belize.

    In some places, the birth rate is so high that governments like those in the Republic of the Congo and Liberia are trying to spread the word about family planning and contraception. Meanwhile, Albania’s population decline has been so steep that the government has offered money to entice parents to have children.

    In honor of World Population Day on July 11 and for insight into these small, lesser-known populations, Stacker referenced data from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook 2020. The list features the 95 least-populous nations out of the 195 nations recognized by either the United Nations or the United States.

    Read on to discover what’s going on in the world’s smallest nations.

    Research note: The CIA’s 2020 population estimates come from a variety of sources, including countries’ government records and population censuses. Population estimates can vary from source to source as organizations calculate them differently based on migration, mortality, and fertility rates.

    You may also like: Former jobs of the governor of every state

  • #95. Laos

    - Population: 7,447,396 (+1.4% average population growth)
    - Net migration rate per 1,000 people: -1%
    - Urban population: 36.3% of total population (+3.3% annual rate of change)
    - Birth rate per 1,000 people: 22.4 (median life expectancy at birth: 65.7 years)
    - Death rate per 1,000 people: 7.2
    - Median age: 24

    The population of Laos grew rapidly in the late 1980s and 1990s following food shortages of previous years. It has since slowed. The country is mountainous, landlocked, and poor. About 80% of its population works in agriculture, mostly cultivating rice.

  • #94. Papua New Guinea

    - Population: 7,259,456 (+1.6% average population growth)
    - Net migration rate per 1,000 people: 0%
    - Urban population: 13.3% of total population (+2.5% annual rate of change)
    - Birth rate per 1,000 people: 22.5 (median life expectancy at birth: 67.8 years)
    - Death rate per 1,000 people: 6.7
    - Median age: 24

    Population growth in Papua New Guinea is pressing on its health care and educational systems, infrastructure, and economy. The fertility rate is relatively high, and the island nation has what is called a youth bulge, meaning a large number of young people not old enough to work. Its population is projected to nearly double by 2050.

  • #93. Paraguay

    - Population: 7,191,685 (+1.2% average population growth)
    - Net migration rate per 1,000 people: -0.1%
    - Urban population: 62.2% of total population (+1.7% annual rate of change)
    - Birth rate per 1,000 people: 16.6 (median life expectancy at birth: 77.9 years)
    - Death rate per 1,000 people: 4.9
    - Median age: 29.7

    Paraguay’s population growth is stable, although it is projected to decline over the next few decades. It is sparsely populated, and nearly two-thirds of the population lives in its sprawling, overcrowded, and impoverished urban and metropolitan areas.

  • #92. Serbia

    - Population: 7,012,165 (-0.5% average population growth)
    - Net migration rate per 1,000 people: 0%
    - Urban population: 56.4% of total population (-0.1% annual rate of change)
    - Birth rate per 1,000 people: 8.8 (median life expectancy at birth: 76.3 years)
    - Death rate per 1,000 people: 13.5
    - Median age: 43.4

    Serbia has one of the world’s highest negative population growth rates, and its population is estimated to drop almost by half at century’s end. Its fertility rate is extremely low, the age of the population is among the world’s 10 oldest, and it has suffered a brain drain as educated and skilled residents leave to find jobs elsewhere. The diminishing size of the workforce poses an economic problem, and the Balkan nation has sought international assistance to address the decline. Certain population estimates include Kosovo in its figures as well.

  • #91. Bulgaria

    - Population: 6,966,899 (-0.7% average population growth)
    - Net migration rate per 1,000 people: -0.3%
    - Urban population: 75.7% of total population (-0.2% annual rate of change)
    - Birth rate per 1,000 people: 8.3 (median life expectancy at birth: 75 years)
    - Death rate per 1,000 people: 14.6
    - Median age: 43.7

    Bulgaria is one of just two countries, along with Latvia, where the current population is lower than it was in 1950. An economic collapse in the 1990s precipitated the departure of some 1 million people from the former Soviet satellite by 2005. Its fertility rate is one of the world’s lowest, and its death rate is high. At its current pace, Bulgaria is losing about 50,000 citizens each year.

    You may also like: Oldest national parks in America

  • #90. Libya

    - Population: 6,890,535 (+1.9% average population growth)
    - Net migration rate per 1,000 people: -0.7%
    - Urban population: 80.7% of total population (+1.7% annual rate of change)
    - Birth rate per 1,000 people: 23 (median life expectancy at birth: 76.7 years)
    - Death rate per 1,000 people: 3.5
    - Median age: 25.8

    Libya’s population has been growing steadily for decades, although precise numbers are difficult for international agencies to obtain from the conflict-ridden and unstable country. Since the ouster of Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, the country has fractured into military and political factions. Oil-rich Libya is mostly uninhabitable desert, and most of its residents live in urban areas. The country has become a major departure point for migrants, many of them sub-Saharan, trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Italy and beyond.

  • #89. Sierra Leone

    - Population: 6,624,933 (+2.4% average population growth)
    - Net migration rate per 1,000 people: -1.2%
    - Urban population: 42.9% of total population (+3.1% annual rate of change)
    - Birth rate per 1,000 people: 35.4 (median life expectancy at birth: 59.8 years)
    - Death rate per 1,000 people: 9.8
    - Median age: 19.1

    The population in Sierra Leone has been growing at a substantial pace. The birth rate is high, and women on average have more than four children. With a median age of just 19, the population is quite young. Projections show the growth rate in the West African nation, which in recent decades has suffered bitter civil war, accusations of human rights violations, and an Ebola epidemic, dropping 50% by 2050.

  • #88. El Salvador

    - Population: 6,481,102 (+0.8% average population growth)
    - Net migration rate per 1,000 people: -4.8%
    - Urban population: 73.4% of total population (+1.6% annual rate of change)
    - Birth rate per 1,000 people: 18.6 (median life expectancy at birth: 74.8 years)
    - Death rate per 1,000 people: 5.9
    - Median age: 27.7

    The rate of population growth in El Salvador has been slowing in large part due to the many people who flee its gang-driven violence. An estimated 454,000 people were displaced last year, mostly due to threats, extortion and killings by criminal gangs. Growth in the population is projected to end by 2050 due to the ongoing exodus.

  • #87. Singapore

    - Population: 6,209,660 (+1.7% average population growth)
    - Net migration rate per 1,000 people: +11.8%
    - Urban population: 100% of total population (+1.4% annual rate of change)
    - Birth rate per 1,000 people: 8.9 (median life expectancy at birth: 86 years)
    - Death rate per 1,000 people: 3.6
    - Median age: 35.6

    Growth in Singapore’s population has been driven by immigration of foreign laborers needed to work in its industries. The government has been campaigning to increase the fertility rate, one of the lowest in the world, with little success.

  • #86. Nicaragua

    - Population: 6,203,441 (+1% average population growth)
    - Net migration rate per 1,000 people: -2.4%
    - Urban population: 59% of total population (+1.5% annual rate of change)
    - Birth rate per 1,000 people: 17.1 (median life expectancy at birth: 74.2 years)
    - Death rate per 1,000 people: 5.2
    - Median age: 27.3

    In Nicaragua, the population has been growing but at a slowing rate with fewer births. The growth is considered manageable for the country’s economy, but the declining rate is seen as a welcome development in efforts to address the country’s poverty. It is one of the Western hemisphere’s poorest nations.

    You may also like: U.S. cities with the cleanest air

2018 All rights reserved.