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Population Overview And Growth In The Middle East

957 words - 4 pages

Spanning from Saharan Africa to the western edge of Asia, the Middle East's nations share four general characteristics: shared water resource interests, shared religion (with the exception of Israel, which only has a 15% Muslim population), the birth rate is exceeding the death rate, and the vast wealth from minerals and oil. The dominance of fossil fuel and mineral deposits on the area's economy constitutes 88 percent of the region's Gross Domestic Product, where two-thirds of the world's oil resides. These are all contributing factors to a growing population expected to double within 50 years.The Middle East and North Africa, defined in this report to include 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, is an area of 18 nations covering approximately 4.3 million square miles. It was home to 326 million people in 2002. In contrast, the United States has 3.7 million square miles with 287 million people. The region includes geographical giants such as Algeria, with almost one-fourth the land area of the United States, and Bahrain, which is smaller than the five boroughs of New York City. Populations also vary greatly from Qatar, with less than one million people, to Egypt, with 71 million individuals.High fertility rates, worker immigration, and low mortality rates have resulted in rapid population growth as well as a very young population. 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.Religion may be a factor in the birth rate. Most nations in the Middle East and North Africa adhere to Islamic law, which stress familial obligations for women. As a result, women are encouraged to marry young and to have many children, although in many nations such traditions are diminishing. For example, the median age of marriage for women has increased in every Arab country since the 1970s.While some agree that the growing population is a concern, many Middle Eastern countries do not. Yemen and Oman view the current birth rate as too high, while Saudi Arabia is comfortable with the present growth level. Because the Saudi Arabian government views population in terms of ensuring a strong national identity and meeting its labor force requirements, it actively tries to promote higher fertility rates. Only Israel views its total fertility rate (2.9 in 2002) to be too low, and anticipates a decline in births.While Morocco, Algeria and Saudi Arabia have vastly different fertility rates--Algeria is at 2.8, while Saudi Arabia is at 5.7--these countries all have rather moderate abortion policies for a Muslim state. Unlike Yemen, Egypt and Syria, which only permit abortion in order to save the woman's life; these countries also permit abortion in...

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