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Demographic Information

The population of Glarus (as of 31 December 2015) is 40,021 (1). As of 2014, the population included 8,996 foreigners (or 22.4% of the total population).

The population (as of 2011) is nearly evenly split between Protestants (42%) and Roman Catholics (37%).

83.6% is German-speaking and 6.8% is Italian-speaking.

Statisic about the Demographic Development of the Canton of Glarus (1388-2016)

(1) Bundesamt für Statistik

Demographic Development Canton of Glarus, Patrick A. Wild, 2016

Demographic History


Before the Helvetic census of 1798, there was no cantonal statistic. However, the demographic development can be roughly reconstructed from indirect sources. The increase in population from the 13th century onwards is evidenced by the emergence of new parishes (four between 1260 and 1370, five from the late 14th century to the middle of the 15th century), the increase in settlement activity (in the 12th century also the Alpine settlements of Bergeten above Braunwald and Ämpächli above Elm), the immigration of Walser into the Sernftal valley in the 13th century and the formation of new communities of inhabitants which were formed in Tagwen. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the military register (Mannschaftsrödel) was added by counts of the inhabitants, which were carried out on the occasion of the distribution of pensions, access to public offices (Auflagegeld) and the granting of citizenship rights (Standgeld).


At the end of the 14th century Glarus had about 4,300 inhabitants, in 1700 10,498 inhabitants were counted and in 1798 22,300. The increase recorded from the middle of the 17th century onwards, the largest percentage increase in the Alpine region, which was exclusively due to natural growth, whereas in the 16th century immigration helped to compensate for demographic deficits.


The increase in population was not linear, but took place in three major growth phases. From the 13th century to the early 16th century there was a significant increase, but it cannot be traced back in detail. A period of strong fluctuations followed until 1650, due to repeated plague epidemics and the mass recruitment of mercenaries for foreign services. During this period, the population reached a peak of about 7,000. From the middle of the 17th century until the late 18th century the demographic setbacks decreased, so that the population could grow strongly in the long run. In the last third of the 17th century, the decline in infant mortality contributed to population growth. The more than 50% increase in the population between 1760 and 1798 is attributable to economic development. Between 1773 and 1789 the annual growth rate was even 1.5%.


The different regions of Glarus participated to varying degrees. In the lowlands, the growth was lower because malaria caused numerous deaths in and around the swampy Linth plain in the 18th century. In the first half of the 18th century, life expectancy at birth in this part of Glarus was less than 24 years, while in Elm, the highest community in Glarus, it was 42 years. The denomination also influenced the demographic development. While the single rate and marriage age were higher for both sexes in the Catholic area, fertility was higher here; however, due to the increased infant and child mortality less people reached adulthood than in the Reformed areas. There are also differences in migration behaviour. After the Reformation, the Catholic population grew much more slowly than the Protestant population, since the former was more likely to go into foreign service and therefore had a higher mortality rate. The employment opportunities offered to the Reformed population in trade and the proto-industrial sector facilitated sedentary living and contributed to their faster growth.

Source: Historical encyclopedia of Switzerland (HLS), author: Anne-Lise Head-König

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