Egyptian population explosion worsens social unrest
560,000 extra births in 2012, compared with 2010, in country already struggling with depleted resources and too few jobs
Egypt is struggling to contain a population explosion that has surged in the past three years, exacerbating many of the social tensions that indirectly led to the 2011 uprising.
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.
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