Egypt’s Demographic Stifles its development

eyptian work force
Courtesy of


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)

population growth mulitpliers.png
Courtesy of Tahrir Institute of Middle East Policy 

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

5 thoughts on “Egypt’s Demographic Stifles its development

  1. With Egypt having the largest population which has increased dramatically over the year one would believe that there would have been some kind of contingency plan to accommodate the population growth especially where education is concerned. What was being done differently here that cause this outstanding population growth? And is there anything being doing that could close the gap?


  2. I thought you did a fantastic job at explaining how the Arab Springs was a direct cause of social unrest within the youth sector of MENA. Not many people would admit so, but young people have the most powerful voice amongst any other age groups. It’s an important fact to discuss when analyzing the political economic status of Egypt and other MENA countries.
    In addition, I’m so proud that Egypt is taking steps to empower women towards the work force and education! I think that shows a great dedication on the government’s behalf to make sure that everyone who can possibly provide an income has the opportunity to do so. In Iraq, the government has shown little interest in providing adequate educational resources or job opportunities for women. I fear that because Egypt doesn’t want a booming population to continue, will education be a resource given to women, because statistically women who are educated and employed have less or zero children, in a time for population to slow down? If and when the population decreases to an acceptable level, will the government suddenly change its mind about the initiatives towards educating girls and take away that right? I look forward to reading more!


  3. I definitely agree with you with the Idea that demographics is an underlying cause of the Arab uprising. The Youth Bulge is not something new to the region, it has existed for quite sometimes so it does not fully explain why the uprisings just happened. Similarly with other MENA nations, there is a rapid increase in educated youth and the amount and quality of jobs available and this can turn into unrest in the region.

    In many of the Gulf countries, for example, there is a large sum of money being budgeted for infrastructure, healthcare and education. Due to the increase in population in Egypt, do you think this is something the country is prepared to deal with? I understand that you stated these areas lack, but my thought is in regards the future. Despite having introduced family planning, do you think in maybe 10 years, the country will have curbed its population and will in turn be able to provide more basic assistance for its people?

    My favorite part about your blog was towards the end where you stated what is being done for the development of women and girls in the country. The encouragement of women to be involved is something that many more countries in the region to do.


  4. Egypt should definitely take a larger interest in its reputation after the Arab Spring. Everyone looked forward for social reforms and the government still has not finished the work. You mentioned gender inequality can affect the rise of unemployment. Especially the large youth population wishes for better support. The government should continue adjusting its policies to give maximum effectiveness of the state.


  5. Egypt seems to have been a breeding ground for the Arab spring uprisings. like many other countries in the region the persistent youth bulge will have to be addressed in order to maintain and improve Egypt’s quality of life.


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