Contemplating data and analyses from various sources, the UN, Middle East Council on Global Affairs, and WINEP among others, the population prospects will continue to shape internal dynamics and impact the competition for influence in the region.
In the future, Turkey’s, Iran’s, and Lebanon’s populations will experience a decline by 2100; by contrast, Iraq and Yemen are expected to witness an increase in populations: Iraq will expand from 44 to 112 million, and Yemen is projected to increase from 34 to 74 million. Egypt has been ranked first in terms of population in the North African region, with 104.2 million, and placed third on the continent behind Nigeria and Ethiopia. Egypt will continue its path to a demographic explosion, doubling to 205 million. Syrian, Jordanian, and Palestinian populations will also significantly increase.
In the 2000s, a demographic wave affected the Middle East and exerted pressure on countries’ infrastructures, education systems & labor markets. A second wave is expected soon, with a peak by 2035, with a youth population share of 18.3% (compared to the 14.9% average in the world). In addition, fertility rates in the region have not declined as fast as some would have expected because women remain outside the labor force. Moreover, additional pressures may occur due to crises linked to ‘climate change’ and increased rural-urban migration. These factors may lead to the lack of jobs and exacerbate further the labor supply pressure due to demographic trends. MENA countries would need effective and more robust institutions to handle these challenges; unfortunately, the past decade saw a steep decrease in the quality of public institutions and governance across the region. The region’s average aggregate ranking on the World Bank’s governance indicators has fallen by 12% since 2010 (figures of 2010-2020).
Overall, the pressure exerted by increasing populations on dwindling resources, not only water but also jobs, education, and healthcare, will continue.