Egypt population exploded during recent tensions

Egypt population exploded during recent tensions
Mon Feb 17, 2014 09:27:51

Population explosion has alarmed Egyptian authorities over possible social consequences, worsening the already tense situation in the African country.

The number of births in Egypt in 2012 was 560,000 higher than in 2010, according to the most recent statistics.

It is the largest two-year increase since records began.

The rise keeps Egypt on course to overtake countries such as Russia and Japan by 2050, when forecasters predict it will have more than 137.7 million people.

"It's the highest spike ever in all Egyptian history," said Magued Osman, director of Egypt's leading statistics firm, Baseera, and former head of a government thinktank. "It's unheard of to have such a jump in a two-year period."

The rising population is seen as a social timebomb which, if untackled, will exhaust Egypt's depleted resources, worsen a dire jobs market, and contribute to yet more social frustration. With 60% of Egyptians under 30 already, a bulging population will further reduce the limited opportunities for young people.

"You can't maintain a good education system with this number of people," said Osman. "If the population increases, you need a parallel increase in the number of classes. Between 2006 and 2012 there was a 40% increase in the number of births. This means you need 91,000 new classes just to keep the same average class size, which is already very high – at least 40, and in some governorates it's at 60."

Every year, more than 800,000 young Egyptians join the job market – which already has an unemployment rate of 13.4%. With an unchecked birthrate and a falling deathrate, joblessness is expected to rise quickly, inevitably leading to further public anger.

"Now you [already] have a very high level of unemployment, especially among university graduates and young people," said Hussein Sayed, a statistics professor at Cairo University, and a population consultant for the UN. "Without any hopes and opportunities, those people become frustrated, and a serious source of unrest – and that was a major push-factor for the unrest in 2011."

An expanding population will also drain Egypt's natural resources. The country already faces severe water, energy and wheat shortages – andlacks the foreign currency reserves needed to fund the import of extra supplies. "It's an issue that cuts across everything in Egypt," says Hala Youssef, the head of Egypt's national population council (NPC).

Experts say population control, which was relatively successful during the 80s and 90s, started to fall off the agenda during the last years of Hosni Mubarak's government – and was largely ignored in the chaos that followed his removal in 2011.

After Mohamed Morsi was elected as president in 2012, that negligence became official policy. His administration publicly declared that population control was not a government concern.


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