Middle East population set to double

Posted: 25 April 2002

Despite projections showing a decrease in population growth, the Middle East region is expected to more than double its population to 649 million by 2050, according to a report compiled by the Population Resource Center (PRC).

Combining information from the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the Central Intelligence Agency, and its own data, a general population overview is given for the territory that includes Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen.

Spanning from Saharan Africa to the western edge of Asia, the Middle East's countries share four general characteristics:

  • High birth rates and low death rates have resulted in rapid population growth as well as a very young population;
  • The dominance of fossil fuel and mineral deposits on the area's economy, constituting 88 percent of the region's Gross Domestic Product;
  • The strong influence of Islam among its people-Israel is the only country in the region with a minority Muslim population (15 percent);
  • With few ground water resources, much of the area is arid or semi-arid.
A three-pronged mix of high fertility rates, worker immigration, and lowmortality rates in the region has produced some of the highest population growth rates in the world, according to the report. The region's population has more than tripled, from 106 million to 319 million people since 1960. The largest increase was in Iran, which grew by almost 45 million people.

The report theorizes that high fertility rates could be attributed to cultural adherence to Islamic codes, which stress familial obligations for women. With this influence, women have traditionally married and borne children at an early age.

Source: Popline, March April 2002, published by the Population Institute.