Tunisia is geographically the smallest country in the Arab Maghreb with a relatively homogeneous population of 11.3 million and growing levels of urbanization. In 2015, the urban population made up 66.8% of the total population. The population of Tunisia is ageing, as the percentage of the population below 30 years of age declined from 78.4% in 2000 to 63.6% in 2015. Moreover, there has been a rapid and considerable progress in the health sector in the last fifteen years; where life expectancy increased from 73 years in 2000 to 76 years in 2014, while maternal and infant mortality decreased over the same lapse. Infant mortality went down gradually from 26.3 per 1,000 in 2000 to only 12 per 1,000 in 2015.
The poverty rate in Tunisia, according to the national poverty line, fell from 32.4% in 2000 to 15.5% in 2010; since then no updates on the poverty incidence have been reported.
Education reforms in Tunisia span three decades beginning in 1958 with the creation of a unified education system and an introduction of universal free education. Youth and adult literacy rates for women and men reached 98.1% and 81% in 2015, respectively. The gross enrollment rate for primary education leveled at 111.3% in 2013, however, the rate for tertiary education is still as low as 34.6% in 2014 with a Gender Parity Index (GPI) of 1.0. Nevertheless, this rate is higher than that for the Arab countries at 28.1% in 2013. Notably, the number of women accessing tertiary education in Tunisia exceeds the number of men with a GPI of 1.6 in 2014.
Following the onset of the revolution in late 2010 and the ensuing political transition, the Tunisian economy has been growing more slowly. The annual growth rate averaged 2.3% (constant 2005 prices) since 2012. Amid heightened security concerns, weak growth in the euro zone—Tunisia’s main trading partner - and slower manufacturing, tourism and mining sectors activities, the macroeconomic situation has become more fragile. Inflation rates increased from 2.8% in 2000 up to 5% in 2015 with a peak of 5.8% in 2013. The GDP (Purchasing Power Parity, constant 2011 prices) leveled at 119 billion Int$ and the GNI per capita (Purchasing Power Parity) reached 11,060 Int$ in 2015, compared to 9,700 Int$ in 2011 and to an average of 16,445 Int$ in the Arab region in 2015. At the budgetary level, fiscal rationing led to the decrease of the cash deficit from 6.9% in 2013 to 4.8% of GDP in 2015, due to lower spending on subsidies and relatively strong revenue collection. The tax collections rose from TD 5,679 million in 2000 up to TD 18,487million in 2015.Since 2010, the outstanding public debt escalated from 40.7% of GDP up to 54.5% of GDP in2015.
Trade and economic integration have played significant roles in Tunisia’s economic development. In 2014, trade of goods and services reached 100% of Tunisia’s GDP. The country is ranked 32nd out of 198 economies on measures of trading across borders. It acceded to GATT in the 1990s, and was the first Arab country to sign the 1995 Association Agreement with the European Union. Despite its significant manufacturing export capacity – for nearly 50% of manufacturing firms produce exclusively for export – Tunisia has the potential to diversify its export base and raise its competitiveness in traditional export sectors. The majority of exporting firms operate in the textiles and clothing industry, which also has the highest proportion of foreign capital companies. Furthermore, the mechanical and electrical exports have lately emerged as the top export category making up to 41.4% of Tunisia’s total exports in 2015, compared to only 16% in 2000. Tunisia’s trade with Arab countries is limited; in 2012, 10% of Tunisia’s total exports are destined to Arab countries and only 8% of its total imports originate from an Arab country.
Unemployment in Tunisia reached its highest level in 2011 at 18.3%, especially among tertiary educated students (29.2%), but dropped to 14.8% in 2014 and then slightly increased to 15.2% in 2015. This rate is still above the pre-revolution level of 13% back in 2010. Despite the progress in women’s labor force participation from 23.8% in 2000 to 25.2% in 2014, their participation continues to be extremely low compared to men, which leveled at 71% in 2014. In addition, women unemployment rate scored 22.2% in 2015, down from 27.4% in 2011, but couldn’t reach the 15.3% level it registered in 2007. Like other Arab countries, youth unemployment rate in Tunisia is considered high with a level of 31.8% in 2014, noting that men unemployment rate is higher than women, 32.7% and 29.9% respectively in 2014.
Tunisia is a hydrocarbon producer yet with very limited capacity. Despite the plans to increase crude oil and natural gas production, there was limited foreign investment in new projects, which led to a decline in crude oil production from 30,405 thousand barrels in 2008 to 20,094 thousand barrels in 2014. Production of natural gas increased from 66.4 billion cubic feet in 2000 to its peak at 88.3 billion cubic feet in 2006, but dropped again to 66.4 billion cubic feet in 2013. The country imports the majority of the petroleum products it consumes, since its single oil refinery in Bizerte cannot meet the domestic demand. The total petroleum products imports amounted to 2,376 thousand ton in 2014 compared to an export of 954 thousand ton. Net oil exports registered 12,386 thousand barrels in 2012, while net natural gas exports registered -77.7 billion cubic feet in 2013.
This overview has been drafted by the ADP team based on most available data as of 30 September 2016.