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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Population: demographic situation, languages and religions


1.Political, social and economic background and trends

1.3Population: demographic situation, languages and religions

Last update: 12 March 2023

Demographic situation

The Turkish invasion of 1974 has been the most tragic event in the recent history of Cyprus, with a devastating impact on its demographic situation. In that year, approximately 142,000 Greek Cypriots – nearly one-third of the then total Greek Cypriot population of Cyprus – were forcibly expelled from the occupied northern part of the island where they constituted some 80% of the population. In the years following the invasion, a further 20,000 Greek Cypriots from the occupied areas were gradually forced to abandon their homes. In parallel, the Turkish Cypriots, who were scattered throughout the island, were moved to the occupied area in the north, as part of Ankara’s policy to impose total segregation of the two communities. The demographic character of the occupied north of the country has also changed dramatically, due to an influx of illegal settlers from the Turkish mainland to the occupied area.

The Turkish invasion had a dramatic impact on the demographic situation, and the total population declined as a result of emigration and abnormal birth and death rates for a number of years, remaining below the 1974 figure. It was not until the end of 1984 that the total population of Cyprus exceeded the highest figure reached in mid-1974. However, the number of Turkish Cypriots has been declining since 1985, whilst the population of Greek Cypriots has gradually increased since 1976. The contrast in the population growth of the two communities is exclusively due to different patterns of migration, as both fertility and mortality rates are similar for both communities.

Education also suffered a severe blow as a result of the invasion. Nineteen of the forty-nine secondary schools were occupied by the Turkish Army and 44% of the pupils in secondary education and 42% in primary education were forced to abandon their homes and schools. Today, there is one primary school operating in Rizokarpasso, in the occupied area, and a secondary school was permitted to re-open in the school year 2004-05. A new kindergarten was also allowed to operate in the same year, in the premises of the Rizokarpasso school.

The main towns of Cyprus are Lefkosia (capital), Lemesos, Larnaka, Pafos, Ammochostos and Keryneia. The towns of Ammochostos, Keryneia and a part of Lefkosia are under Turkish military occupation.


The total population of Cyprus was estimated at 1.199.000 at the end of 2019 compared to 1.189.000 the year before, up 0.84%, according to the "Demographic Report 2019" released by the Statistical Service of Cyprus.

The proportion of children below 15 was estimated at 16,0% while the proportion of persons aged 65 and over increased to 16,3% in 2019, compared to 22,3% and 11,3% respectively in 2000. There was a gradual increase in the proportion of old-aged persons and reduction in the proportion of the children, an indication of the aging of the population.

According to the Demographic Report 2016, the population in the Government-controlled area was estimated at 854.8 thousand at the end of 2016, of which 411.8 thousand (48.6%) were male and 435.2 (51.4%) were female. The age pyramid was as follows:

  •  0 - 14 years (16.3%);
  • 15 - 44 years (43.9%);
  • 45 - 64 years (24.2%);
  • 64+ years (15.6%).

According to the Demographic Report 2014, the population in the Government-controlled area was estimated at 847.000 at the end of 2014, of which 411.800 (48.6%) were male and 435.200 (51.4%) were female. The age pyramid was as follows:

  •  0 - 14 years (16.4%);
  • 15 - 44 years (45.5%);
  • 45 - 64 years (24.5%);
  • 64+ years (14.6%).

Population trends

The annual growth rate of the population indicates a decreasing trend from 2.6% in 2011 to 0.5% in 2012 and -1.3% in 2014, which is mainly due to increased migration. The population increased from 848.300 in 2015 to 854.8 thousand at the end of 2016, having an increase of 0.8%.

An aging trend of the population is clearly demonstrated during the last decades, as the proportion of children below 15 records a gradual decrease from 25.4% in 1992 to 18.4% in 2005 and 16.4% in 2014, whilst the proportion of persons over 65 records a gradual increase from 11.0% in 1992 to 12.1% in 2005 and 14.6% in 2014. The proportion of persons aged 45-64 years also increased from 19.3% in 1992 to 23.8% in 2005 and 24.5% in 2014, indicating the aging of the working-age population as well. The aging of the population is mirrored in the teaching staff of the schools as well.

The total fertility rate was estimated at 1.32 in 2019 and has, since 1995, remained below the replacement level of 2.10. 

Life expectancy at birth is estimated at 80.7 years for men and 84.5 years for women in 2014, as compared to 77.0 and 81.7 respectively for the period 2004-05 and 79.0 and 82.9 respectively for the period 2010-2011. 

The urban/rural share of the total population was 67.2% urban and 32.8% rural in 2014, as compared to 68.8% urban and 31.2% rural in 2000; and, 69.6% urban and 30.4% rural in 2005.


According to the Labor Force Survey-2019, the unemployment rate accounted for 7.07 % of the labor force in 2019. The corresponding rate 2018 was 8.37%.

Public spending on education

Public spending on education, total (% of GDP) in Cyprus was reported at 6.125 % in 2014, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources. In 2019, public spending on education, total (% of GDP) in Cyprus was reported at 6.4%.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Cyprus expanded 0.70 percent in the third quarter of 2019 over the previous quarter. GDP Growth Rate in Cyprus averaged 0.60 percent from 1995 until 2019, reaching an all-time high of 2.40 percent in the third quarter of 2001 and a record low of -2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.


Net migration in Cyprus has been positive from 1983 to 2011. As of 2012, net migration has been negative, starting from -629 in 2012 and reaching -15,000 in 2014. In 2016 net migration was positive again and was estimated at 2,499 compared to 4193 in 2019.


As provided in the Constitution, Greek and Turkish are the official languages of the Republic of Cyprus, used in legislation and the public administration. It is also provided in the Constitution that each community, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot, is responsible for its educational and linguistic matters. In this respect, the language of instruction in the public pre-primary, primary and secondary level of education in the Government-controlled area is Greek, while the official languages in public universities are Greek and Turkish. The language of instruction in public non-university level institutions is either Greek or English. Private institutions at all levels of education offer programs both in Greek and English.

Other minorities are free to speak and write their own languages and use them as the language of instruction in their educational institutions. In addition, there is a sizeable foreign and expatriate population on the island, either permanently or temporarily resident. This has led to the establishment of private primary and secondary schools catering to the needs of this population, where the language of instruction is English, Arabic, French or Russian.

CARMELA Research Program

On February 24, 2023, CARMELA Research Program was presented, which contributes to the preservation of the identity of the religious groups of Cyprus. The program is a collaboration between the Scientific Research Center of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth and the Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies of the University of Cyprus and aims to create a Cypriot Archive of Oral Tradition for the Armenian and Latino ccommunities. The Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth, in the context of supporting the religious groups of Cyprus, morally and financially supports actions and synergies that aim to save and promote elements of the cultural heritage of the Maronites, Armenians and Latinos.


There is no official religion in Cyprus. As provided in the Constitution, every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion and is free to profess his faith and manifest or change his religion or belief. Freedoms to manifest one’s religion or belief shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in the interests of the security of the Republic or the constitutional order or the public health or the public morals or for the protection of the rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution to any person.

Christians make up 78% of the total Cypriot population. Christianity includes the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, the Armenian Church in Cyprus, Maronite, Roman Catholicism, and Protestants. Most Greek Cypriots are members of the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus (Church of Cyprus). Islam makes up 18% of the population, with the majority of Turkish Cypriots being Muslims. There are also small Hinduism, Judaism and other religious communities in Cyprus.