With a population of 1,547,085 Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s largest provinces. Of this number, 170,348 currently live in Chiang Mai’s city area with the rest distributed throughout Chiang Mai’s 21 districts, 2 sub-districts. Eighty percent of the people in Chiang Mai are locals by birth, and speak a dialect that is a slight variation of the central Thai language. The remaining 20% is made up of Thai nationals and foreigners who have moved to Chiang Mai to study, work, or retire.
There are a number of hill tribes located in the mountainous districts surrounding Chiang Mai such as Omkoi, Mae Jam, Chiang Dao, and Mae Ai. Statistics reported by the Tribal Research Institute of Chiang Mai stated that in the year 1992 there were 1,049 hill tribe villages in the Chiang Mai province, constituting a total of 174,195 people. Of this amount, 106,116 were from the Karen tribe, 27,392 from the Lahu (Musur) tribe, 17,198 from the Hmong (Meo) tribe, 10,873 form the Lisu tribe, 8,862 from the Lua tribe, 2,609 from the Akha tribe, 1,145 from the Mien (yao) tribe, and 485 from the Palong tribe. The hill tribe people are agricultural; planting fields, raising animals, and hunting for a living. Since each tribe has its own culture and language, they blanket the hills of Chiang Mai adding a diverse variety to the local scene.
The majority (80%) of the Chiang Mai residents earn a living through agriculture and agricultural related professions. The second largest industry is tourism and its directly and indirectly related jobs. General commerce and industry–mainly handicrafts, and processing agricultural products–are the other two major industries.