Geographic and demographic characteristics

Chile’s particular geography brings both challenges and benefits. Chile is over 4 300 km long, but no more than 240 km wide. This creates a challenge for developing and managing connections among individuals, firms and regions throughout the country and delivering goods and services throughout the territory, especially in remote areas. Moreover, accessibility and connectivity to international markets also represent a challenge for many regions. Relative to other parts of Latin America, Chile’s remoteness and its particular geography have been less of an impediment. In Chile, macroeconomic stability and resilience have attracted foreign capital and business activity from neighbouring countries that also experience similar poor international connectivity, resulting in pockets of strong economic activity.

Figure 1.8. Average number of inhabitants per municipality in the OECD, 2012

Source: OECD (2013), OECD Regional Statistics (database), http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/region-data-en, (accessed on 15 December 2013).

Figure 1.9. Average municipal area in the OECD, 2012

Source: OECD (2013), OECD Regional Statistics (database), http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/region-data-en, (accessed on 15 December 2013).

Chile’s surface area, although below the OECD average, is above that of the majority of OECD countries. With a surface area of 756 096 km2, Chile is the seventh largest country among OECD member countries (Figure 1.10), only surpassed by the United States, Australia, Canada, Mexico and Turkey. The main geographical characteristic of the country is a vast territory, mostly uninhabited, with deserted areas, lakes, mountainous territories and with difficult climatic conditions.

Figure 1.10. Surface area of OECD member countries, 2010

Source: OECD (2013), OECD Regional Statistics (database), http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/region-data-en, (accessed on 15 December 2013).

Of Chile’s 75.6 million ha, just 20% (15 million ha) are devoted to agriculture (OECD, 2008) - a similar figure to New Zealand, which is just one third of Chile’s total area (Table 1.5). As within New Zealand, most of this land is allocated to pasture, with just 2.3 million ha devoted to crops. For those areas where agricultural production is feasible, however, the climate is ideal, and especially suitable for wine growing and temperate horticulture (OECD, 2004). Forests comprise 10% of total surface land with plantations representing 2.3 million ha and natural forests 5.6 million ha.

Table 1.5. Land-use patterns, 2003

Millions ha

Country

Total area

Agricultural

area

Permanent

pasture

Arable and permanent

Arable land

Permanent

crops

Argentina

278

128.7

99.8

28.9

27.9

1

Bolivia

109.9

37.1

33.8

3.3

3.1

0.2

Brazil

851.5

263.6

197

66.6

59

7.6

Chile

75.7

15.2

12.9

2.3

2

0.3

Colombia

113.9

45.9

42.1

3.9

2.3

1.6

Ecuador

28.4

8.1

5.1

3

1.6

1.4

Paraguay

40.7

24.8

21.7

3.1

3

0.1

Peru

128.5

21.2

16.9

4.3

3.7

0.6

Uruguay

17.6

15

13.5

1.4

1.4

0

Venezuela

91.2

21.6

18.2

3.4

2.6

0.8

China, People’s Republic

959.8

554.9

400

154.9

142.6

12.2

India

328.7

180.8

11.1

169.7

160.5

9.2

South Africa

121.9

99.6

83.9

15.7

14.8

1

Australia

774.1

439.5

391.6

47.9

47.6

0.3

New Zealand

27.1

17.2

13.9

3.4

1.5

1.9*

United States

962.9

409.3

233.8

175.5

173.5

2.1

Note: * New Zealand: the “permanent crops” category includes planted production forests on farms.

Source: FAO (2007), FAOSTAT (database); World Bank (2007), World Development Indicators.

Despite its large surface, Chile is not very populated by OECD standards. Home to 16.5 million inhabitants in 2010, Chile’s total population (16.5 million) was around half of the average population living in OECD countries (39.4 million) and significantly below the population living in OECD countries with similar surface land to Chile, including Turkey (72 million), France (62 million) and Spain (46 million).

Figure 1.11. Population in OECD member countries, 2010

Source: OECD (2013), OECD Regional Statistics (database), http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/region-data-en, (accessed on 15 December 2013).

As a result of its vast surface land, low population and large surface area, population density in Chile remains relatively low by OECD standards. With a population density of 23.4 inhabitants per km2, Chile’s population density is the eighth lowest among OECD countries, only higher than Australia, Iceland, Canada, New Zealand and the low- population density Scandinavian countries of Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Figure 1.12. Population density in OECD countries, 2010

Source: OECD (2013), OECD Regional Statistics (database), http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/region-data-en. (accessed on 15 December 2013).

 
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