The last population census, conducted in 2021, showed that a total of 1,836,713 people live in North Macedonia.

The largest ethnic groups are Macedonians (58.44 per cent) and Albanians (24.30 per cent). In terms of religion, the largest groups are Orthodox Christians (46.14 per cent) and Muslims (32.17 per cent).

The Ohrid Framework Agreement, signed in August 2001, defines the rights of ethnic communities based on their percentage of the total population. In fact, the reason for not conducting a national census for almost 20 years was the fragile state of inter-ethnic and political relations in the country. The previous census was conducted in 2002.

In addition to Macedonians and Albanians, the last census showed that the following ethnic groups also live in North Macedonia: Turks (3.86 per cent), Roma (2.53 per cent), Vlachs (0.47 per cent), Serbs (1.30 per cent) and Bosniaks (0.87 per cent).

The official languages are Macedonian, spoken by 61.38 per cent of the population, and Albanian, spoken by 24.34 per cent.

Other languages spoken in the country are: Turkish (3.41 per cent), Roma (1.73 per cent), Vlach (0.17 per cent), Serbian (0.61 per cent) and Bosnian (0.85 per cent).

In addition to Orthodox Christians and Muslims, other religious groups also live in North Macedonia: Catholics, numbering 0.37 per cent of the population, were recorded in the census. There are also Evangelical Christians, Agnostics, Buddhists and others, but without specified percentages of representation.

The census confirmed earlier concerns that the number of residents in the country is decreasing. The data showed that, compared to the 2002 census, the population had fallen by 185,834 people, or 9.2 per cent. The reasons are a lower birth rate and a high rate of emigration, mostly due to economic and social reasons.

Those who have remained in North Macedonia increasingly live in cities rather than villages. The urban population makes up a total of 61.6 per cent of the population, or 1,131,356 residents. Some 705,357 people, 38.4 per cent, live in rural areas.

The largest city in North Macedonia is the capital, Skopje, which is home to a third of the total population, or 526,502 inhabitants. The three next largest cities are Kumanovo, Bitola and Tetovo.

The population density in the country is 72.2 inhabitants per square kilometer (km2). The most densely populated region is Skopje, with 334.99 inhabitants per km2. It is the only statistical region, out of a total of eight, in which the number of inhabitants, households and apartments has increased.

The least populated region is the Vardar region (34.3 inhabitants per km2). The others are: Polog region (104.1 inhabitants per km2), Southwest region (53.1 inhabitants per km2), Southeast region (54.1 inhabitants per km2), Eastern region (42.47 inhabitants per km2), and Pelagonia region (44.6 inhabitants per km2).

The illiteracy rate is 1.24 per cent, which is a decrease compared to the 2002 census, when the rate was 3.6 per cent. The majority of illiterate people are women, numbering 13,380. The number of illiterate men is 5,517.

The percentage of the population that has completed secondary education is 44.1 per cent.

Surveys on media literacy routinely place Macedonian citizens at the bottom of the list of countries they compare.

The Media Literacy Index for 2022, prepared by the Open Society Institute within the European Policy Initiative, positioned it in the second-to-last place, in 40th place, ahead only of Georgia.

According to the International Republican Institute IRI poll published in 2023, Macedonian citizens lack trust in state institutions. Banks are the most trusted (11 per cent), followed by local government (9 per cent), and media and educational institutions with 7 per cent each.

According to the global media freedom index of the international organisation Reporters without Borders in 2022, North Macedonia jumped 33 places in a year, ranking in 57th place out of 180 countries. In 2021, it ranked in 90th place on the same list. 

No journalist has been killed. However, the organisation noted: “Although journalists do not work in a hostile environment, widespread misinformation and lack of professionalism contribute to society's declining trust in the media, which exposes independent outlets to threats and attacks.”

The local Association of Journalists of Macedonia, ZNM, notes that in 2023 there were four online or physical attacks on journalists, and seven in 2022.

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