Population: 3,494,382 inhabitants (2009)
Density: 19.8 inhabitants per sq. km
The five largest cities are:
- Montevideo 1,270,737
- Salto 99,823
- Paysandú 73,249
- Las Piedras 69,682
- Rivera 64,631
Having become almost dysfunctional in 2005, the health sector is undergoing reform. A 2007 law established a National Health Fund which is financed by contributions from employers, employees and the state. The objective is to provide universal coverage of basic care, inspired by the principle that access to health services is a human right.
Statistics for child health and survival show an improving trend. A contributory factor may be the dramatic advance in provision of safe sanitation during the MDG period. In 1991 44% of the population lacked access whereas today coverage is almost universal.
Although the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is low at 0.6% in 2007, the incidence of new infections has risen steadily since 1990. Over 50% of those in need are receiving antiretroviral treatment.
Adult illiteracy for the year 2000 was estimated at 2.2% (males, 2.6% and females, 1.8%), among the lowest in Latin America. Education in elementary, secondary, and technical schools and at the University of the Republic in Montevideo is free. Elementary education, which lasts six years, is compulsory. Secondary education is in two stages of three years. As of 1999, public expenditure on education was estimated at 2.5% of GDP.
In 1996 there were 2,415 primary schools, with 16,868 teachers and 345,573 students. Student-to-teacher ratio stood at 20 to 1, where it remained as of 1999. There were 269,826 students in secondary schools in 1996. As of 1999, 94% of primary-school-age children were enrolled in school, while 77% of those eligible attended secondary school.
There are two major universities, one of which is state run, the University of the Republic, and one is private, the Catholic University. The institutions of higher learning had a total of 9,907 teachers and 79,691 students in 1996.
Since 1919, church and state have been separated, and the constitution, as revised in 1966, guarantees religious freedom. Uruguay is the only Latin American nation that approaches religious pluralism. About 52% of Uruguayans identify themselves as Roman Catholic. Approximately 16% of the population is Protestant or other Christian, and 1% is Jewish. As many as 30% are members of other religions or profess no religious faith whatsoever.
Primary Protestant denominations include Anglicans, Methodists, Lutherans, and Baptists. Others include Pentecostals, Mennonites, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses. There are small communities of Muslims and Baha'is. In a 1998 poll, 13% of the population claimed to be atheist or agnostic. About 6% claimed to practice animism.