Demographic change was and is an underlying cause of the Arab uprisings. Overall demographics in the Middle East consist of a majority of young unemployed populations. There has been a supposed “youth bulge” in the MENA region in the late 1970’s, but the Arab Spring occurred in most countries much later in 2011-2012. What explains this phenomena? “Demographic trends must be contextualized within larger socioeconomic settings if they are going to be related to major political events or movements. (1)” There is a gap between the educated youth and the jobs that the labor market creates that are available. (1)
Rapid population growth can have a huge effect on the development of a country, especially in Egypt which has the highest population of people within the MENA region. “From 1994 to 2014, the population grew by 46 percent, from 60 million to nearly 88 million—an increase of more than the total populations of Syria and Lebanon combined.(2)”
To help curb population growth, countries have introduced family planning programs. Although neither unemployed youth or rapid population growth are sole socio-economic determinants in the development of a country, the demographics are key components. However in Egypt, rapid population growth has always been a problem that is only getting worse. “The Egyptian population has been growing at unsustainable rates for decades, but 2013 was a year of record growth, with the number of births reaching 2.6 million (compared to about 0.5 million deaths). This population boom comes at a time when the Egyptian government has struggled to provide even basic government services, and the authorities seem unprepared to deal with the additional stressors that emerge from the accelerating population growth rate seen in the country. (3)”
Although Egypt has a had exponential population growth, Egypt also has to increase its economic activity of the people but has to overcome. Egypt lacks a basic public education system that provides an adequate education to all of its school-age populations. Poor education is not the only social problem. The country through its various recent revolutions cannot cover the basic needs of its citizens, thus causing socio-economic conflicts that hinder belief in the government and long-term economic planning measures. Each politician wants to satisfy its population with a short term plan, but really population growth, fertility planning, education structures, etc are all long term projects that lead to greater development 20 years down the line, not five.
Although Egypt’s future looks bleak, as the government is constantly changing and looks unstable the government has put more of a focus on empowering women and girls within its workforce. Most of the MENA region has a low participation of women within its labor force thus undermining development, so the Egyptian government push for encouraging more woman to become involved is a refreshing one. “The current government has made the health and wellbeing of girls and women a national priority. In 2014, the government developed a national strategy to combat child marriage, aiming to cut the prevalence of child marriages in half between 2014 and 2019. The government is also developing a national strategy for women’s reproductive health. These strategies are consistent with global principles articulated at the ICPD, the Millennium Development Goals, and the proposed SDGs, while upholding Egypt’s national laws and religious and cultural values. These and other policies, such as the new law criminalizing sexual harassment and the 2008 law setting 18 as the minimum legal age for girls to marry, are important steps in the right direction for Egypt. (5) “
Overall Egypt is on the right track, but must have consistent government stability and put laws into real life practice to see effective change.
- (1) Richards, Alan, John Waterbury, Ishac Diwan, and Melani Cammett. A Political Economy of the Middle East. Boulder: Westview, 2015. Print
- (2) UN Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision.
- (3)Wagih, Ahmed. “Population Growth in Egypt: More People, More Problems? – The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.” The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. N.p., 23 Apr. 2014. Web.
- (4) LaGraffe, Daniel. “The Youth Bulge in Egypt: An Intersection of Demographics, Security, and the Arab Spring.” Journal of Strategic Security 5, no. 2 (2012): 65-80.
- (5) 1 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Human Development Report 2014, Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience (New York: UNDP, 2014). 2 UN Population Division, World Population Prospect