Malta’s population is almost 90% Caucasian and 83% Roman Catholic, according to new census data revealed by the National Statistics Office on Thursday.
This marks the first time that Malta’s ethnic and religious diversity is formally captured in national statistics.
A preliminary report published last year showed that Malta’s population had ballooned to 519,562 over the past decade, the highest increase in Europe.
Of these, just under 90% described themselves as Caucasian, whilst 5.2%, or approximately 27,000 people, are of Asian origin. A further 1.2% of the population is listed as having multiple ethnicities.
The census also reveals that 5.1% of the population, or just over 23,000 people, do not identify with a religion, whilst 82.6%, describe themselves as Roman Catholic. The presence of other religions such as Islam at 3.9% and Orthodox at 3.6% is recorded for the first time in a census.
These figures suggest that although Roman Catholicism remains the dominant religion, Malta is gradually becoming increasingly diverse in terms of faith.
A MaltaToday survey published in 2018 found that almost 94% of the population identified as Roman Catholic, 3.9% as atheist and only 0.3% as Muslim. A similar study by the Archdiocese of Malta found that 92% of Maltese are Catholic.
More recently, a 2021 study on the state of the nation by the Office of the President found that 93.5% of the population believe in a god, whilst only 3% did not.
The newly published census data also reveals migration patterns across Malta.
A total of 14,822 people migrated to Malta in the year prior to the census, over three times greater than the figure of 4,178 that had been reported in the previous census held in 2011.
Over half of these migrants were non-EU citizens (including British citizens), whilst just under a third were citizens of countries outside Europe.
Meanwhile, internal migration within Malta does not appear to have increased significantly over the past decade, with 93.5% of the population living within the same locality one year before the census was held. This figure was just over 95% in the 2011 census.
Population grows by a quarter in 10 years
Initial findings from the census, published last year, revealed the extent of changes to Malta’s demographic make-up over the past decade.
Since 2011, Malta’s population grew by almost 25%, with an increase of over 10,000 persons each year. This increase was far greater than in any other EU country aside from Luxembourg, which experienced a similar growth rate.
This growth was driven by the increase of foreign nationals in Malta, with over one in five people in Malta not being Maltese. This is a five-fold increase over 2011 when the figure stood at just under 5%.
These demographic changes have resulted in Malta’s population density, already the highest in Europe, reaching 1,649 persons per square kilometre, over 15 times higher than the EU average of 109 persons per square kilometre.
Meanwhile, men outnumbered women in Malta for the first time in recorded history, with men now making up 52% of the total population.
The report also reveals that Malta has an ageing population, with the average age increasing to 41.7 from 40.5 in 2011, driven mainly by a 5% decrease in people under the age of 24.
Concerns over a possible youth brain drain have been raised over the past years, with recent surveys revealing that three-quarters of youths would prefer to live abroad.