The population of the region is 920,089, which is less than one twentieth (4.9%) of the national population. This however is an increase of 19 per cent over the 1984 figure of 722,744, which is the lowest rate of increase among all the regions in the country.
The inter censual growth rate of 1.1 per cent per annum is slightly below one-half the national growth rate of 2.7 per cent and is the lowest regional growth rate recorded. The region’s population density of 104.1 persons per square kilometre is higher than the national density of 79.3 persons per square kilometre and ranks fifth in the country.
The population is primarily rural (84.3%) and scattered in dispersed settlements. There are generally no distinct boundaries between communities as compounds in contiguous villages over lap. The rural population in 1984 was 87.1 percent. There was, thus, a 2.8 percentage point reduction in the rural share of the population between 1984 and 2000.
The slight increase in the urban share of the population has been due mainly to increase in population of existing urban centres. Only 2 towns, Garu and Pusiga have grown from rural to urban localities since 1984. Garu increased from 3,104 in 1984 to 5,057 in 2000, while Pusiga grew from 1,125 to 6,823 over the same period. The largest growth in urban proportion occurred in Bawku (34,074 to 51,379) and Bolgatanga (32,495 to 49,162). Some urban centres however decreased in population (e.g., Navrongo, Paga).
With only 15.7 per cent of the population living in urban areas, the region is the least urbanized in the country. In fact, together with Upper West, they are the two regions with less than 20 per cent urban population.
As an increasing number of children mature and enter the reproductive years, the number of women in child bearing ages 15-49 years will increase. A large increase in the number of women of childbearing ages inevitably means more children (i.e. in terms of total quantity) even though individual women may give birth to fewer children than their mothers.
The simple explanation is that there are just many more women available to give birth. Women of childbearing ages 15-49 comprise 24.9 per cent the total population of the region in 2000, compared with 23 per cent in 1984.
Age Structure By Sex
The age structure for the sexes shows that in the region, there are more females than males. This, however, varies by age. The proportion of males aged 0-19 years (56.3%) is higher than that for females (49.0%). Between ages 20 and 64 years, there is a higher proportion of females (45.1%) than males (36.8%), while those 65 years and older are 6.8 per cent males compared to 5.9 per cent females. In the female reproductive age group of 15-49 years, there is an overall excess of females (44.3%) over males (39.2%) of about 13.0 percent.
The observed age-sex structure of the region follows very closely the pattern found at the national level where there are more females than males in almost every age group from ages twenty up to seventy-four. It is important to note, however, that although the regional proportions at the various age groups follow the national pattern, there are substantial differences in the magnitude of the proportions between the country as a whole and the region.
The higher excess of female in the adult age groups within the region compared to the national picture may be due partly to long-term out migration of able - bodied men to the southern regions of the country and to a lesser extent due to higher male mortality in ethnic conflicts.
The excess of females has implications for agriculture and food production given the known traditional male control of access to land and landownership in the region. The implications of the female excess for sexual and reproductive behaviours should also be a matter of great concern even after taking into account the mitigating effects of the practice of polygamy.
For the elderly population (70 years and older), the pattern of more males than females is repeated. The sex ratios reflect the observed pattern which is contrary to the expected pattern of more females than males at the older ages, and may be partly due to exaggeration of age by elderly men. The sex distribution of the region’s population favours females. There are 92.6 males to 100 females, which is a slight increase over the 91.0 males per 100 females in 1984.
Age Dependency Burden/Ratio
The dependency ratio of 99.2 in 2000 for the region is a slight increase from the 96.7 in 1984. The ratio implies that there is roughly one dependent person for every economically active adult. This trend has serious implications for socio-economic planning.
The need to provide for the economically dependent persons puts pressure on the resources of the region and individual families. On the whole, children are particularly dependent. They must be housed, fed, clothed, educated and provided with health care and other services that either take a long time to yield dividends or have no immediate bearing on economic growth.
Age Structure Of Labour Force
The region has a large and youthful labour force, which, if properly managed, can become a great economic asset. About 56 per cent (55.7 percent) of the labour force is below 35 years.
Nationally the labour force aged 15-34 years shrank slightly from 63.7 per cent of the total labour force in 1984 to 61.1 per cent in 2000, while those aged 35-64 increased between 1984 and 2000.
For the region, also, the labour force aged 15-34 years shrank slightly from 56.4 per cent of the total labour force in 1984 to 55.7 per cent in 2000, while those aged 35-64 increased marginally. These changes in the age structure of the labour force need to be taken into account in formulating short/medium and long-term policies and planned programmes.