Global Trends in Gulf and Middle East Population Evolution

WSN Special Newsletter for Affiliated, Forthcoming

10 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2006

See all articles by Hichem Karoui

Hichem Karoui

Center for China & Globalization (CCG)


The Middle East and North Africa are a long-term demographic nightmare. The US Census Bureau estimates that the Middle East is a region where the population will nearly double between now and 2030. Some of the most important, and sometimes troubled, countries in the region will experience explosive population growth. Population growth presents major problems for infrastructure. Much of the region has become a permanent food importer. Employment and education will be critical challenges to regional stability... All these and other features make the Middle East less competitive with the leading developing regions despite the recent boom in oil prices... The trends in population growth actually represent potential threats to security and stability. Yet, despite the extreme sensitivity of these themes, we can hardly say that demographic evolution in the Middle East is considered as an issue deserving the same concern in the U.S. official spheres than energy, Islamism rise, non-conventional armament programs, etc. Actually, neither the president of the United States nor any high-ranking official in his administration seem concerned for example about the fact that about 2010 the pool of unemployed Arabs is expected to reach 25 million. True, this is first and above all an Arab problem. Yet, if the expectations are accurate, by 2050, according to the latest UN projections, the population growth rate of the Muslim world will converge on that of the United States (although it will be much higher than Europe's or China's). In the focus on the political processes in the Middle East, the demographic issue goes almost unnoticed, although this is the very source of future problems. However, we just ask: what will become of those 25 million idle young men in an Arab world where violence and terrorism seem to be generated by local as well as regional and international political interests, where the perspectives seem locked up and the future unsure and unsafe? What would we do of some reports claiming that the next civilisation clash will not spare the West, since some Islamist thinkers believe that Islam has one generation in which to establish a global theocracy before hitting a demographic barrier? Islam has enough young men, they claim, to fight a war during the next 30 years. Because of mass migration to Western Europe - which will be the attracting perspective for the expected 25 million unemployed Arabs - the worst of the war might be fought on European soil.

Keywords: population growth, Middle East demography, Muslim populations

JEL Classification: J00, J4, J6

Suggested Citation

Karoui, Hichem, Global Trends in Gulf and Middle East Population Evolution. WSN Special Newsletter for Affiliated, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Hichem Karoui (Contact Author)

Center for China & Globalization (CCG) ( email )



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