Census counts 17 million Ecuadorians; 36% live in Guayaquil and Quito while Cuenca grows to 600,000
Although the biggest surprises of Ecuador’s 2022 census were announced earlier this week, official numbers released Wednesday put the country’s population at 16,938,986.
Based on earlier data, officials believed the count would reach 18 million and possibly 18.5 million. On Monday, they said the lower total was the result of a plunging birth rate, out-migration, the Covid-19 pandemic and other unforeseen factors.
The Ecuadorian Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC) said the number of births since 2010, was more than 600,000 less than expected. It added that the fertility rate has dropped to 1.86 per couple, less than the 2.1 rate required for population replacement.
Among other surprises in the official numbers was the fact that women outnumber men by 51.3% to 48.7%. INEC said the disparity was larger than expected, explaining it by the larger number of men who migrate out of the country and the shorter life expectancy for men.
Of the total population, INEC said that 77.5% are identified as mestizo; 7.7% as indigenous; 7.7% as Montubio (coastal indigenous); 4.8% as Afro-Ecuadorian; and 2.2% as white.
Guayaquil remained Ecuador’s largest city with 2,746,403 residents, followed closely by Quito with 2,679,722. Cuenca remains the third largest city at 596,101 and is the country’s fastest growing city. The other largest cities are Santo Domingo, 415,832; Ambato, 370,664; Portoviejo, 322,925; Machala, 306,309; Duran, 303,910; and Manta, 271,145.
The census showed that more than 36% of the population lives in the Guayaquil and Quito metropolitan areas. Overall, 63.1% of the population lives in urban parishes with 36.9% living in rural parishes.
In a number that is drawing sharp criticism from immigrant advocacy groups, INEC counted 425,000 foreigners living in the country, 232,000 Venezuelans and the majority of the rest Colombians. Amnesty International claims there was vast undercount of Venezuelans, which it says amounts to 450,000 to 475,000. INEC Director Roberto Castillo responded that counting Venezuelan refugees was “exceedingly difficult” since many do not have permanent addresses and are fearful of responding to census-takers.
Castillo said INEC would provide “updates and revisions” to its counts later in the year and would focus on the Venezuelan population.
Among other groups of foreigners, Colombians made up 23% of the total while 4.8% were from Spain and 3.5% from Peru.
There was no breakout of permanent residents from the United States although the U.S. consulate estimates there are 33,000 in Ecuador, with about a third of the number living in or near Cuenca.
The census shows that Ecuadorian households continue to shrink, with an average size of 3.2 members in 2022 compared to 3.8 in 2010 and 4.2 in 2000.
Almost 100,000 households report that at least one of its members left the country in the last 12 years and did not return, the majority believed to have relocated in the U.S.