By mid-2018, the Arab region was home to 422.7 million inhabitants representing 5.5% of the world’s population and growing by 1.9% in 2018. The three most populous countries in the region are Egypt (99.3 million), Algeria (42 million) and Sudan (41.5 million), while the population in Comoros and Djibouti is less than one million in 2018.[1]

In the last three decades, fertility in the Arab Region declined from 5.2 births per woman to 3.4 births per woman in 2015. However, the demographic profiles of the Arab countries vary widely. In many countries in the region, the fertility and population growth rates are still high. For example, while the fertility rate is less than 2 births per woman in Kuwait, Qatar, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates, it exceeds 4 births per woman in Iraq, Comoros, Mauritania, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen in 2015.[2]


Populations in the Arab Region are relatively young, with youth aged 15 to 29 years representing one-quarter of the total Arab population, where half of them live in four countries: Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, and Iraq.[1] 

Many countries in the Arab Region are experiencing large population movements from rural to urban areas, as young men and women leave agricultural employment in quest of supposedly more reliable and better-paid urban jobs. More than 58.8% of the Arab population now lives in urban areas and the urbanization grew at an average rate of 1% per year between 2015 and 2020. The population of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is highly urbanized, ranging from 83% in Saudi Arabia to 100% in Kuwait in 2018.[3]


Migration has traditionally been a distinct feature of the Arab region. The poorer countries in the Arab region have witnessed considerable outflows, sometimes illegal to Europe and to richer countries in the region, especially to the member states of the GCC. Arab expatriates amount to 1.1 million in Kuwait and makeup 13% of the total Qatari population in 2018.[4] 


The migration level in the Arab region has tremendously increased, however, the Syrian crisis has decreased its effectiveness. The net migration in the Arab region reached 4.15 million for the period 2005-2010 compared to 0.6 million for the period 2010-2015 (and to 4.7 million excluding Syria).[1]


The region continued to experience severe conflict and protracted crisis in seven out of eighteen Arab countries challenging development gains, and bringing about great human suffering, massive displacement, and damage to infrastructure and services 2017, the Arab region was home to 13.9 million refugees -including the Palestinian refugees- representing 55% of world refugees, most of whom are hosted in the region, and home to 15.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) making up 38.5% of the world IDPs.[5] The spread and amplification of Syria’s armed conflict, in particular, have led to a humanitarian crisis with 6.15 million internally displaced persons and 6.3 million refugees by the end of 2017.[5]


Despite the protracted humanitarian and economic situation, the Arab region’s average maternal mortality rate has decreased from 238 per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 156 per 100,000 live births in 2015, compared to a world average of 216 per 100,000 live births in 2015. The regional maternal mortality rate hides high discrepancies between the Arab countries, with maternal mortality ranging from 4 per 100,000 live births in Kuwait to 732 per 100,000 live births in Somalia in 2015.[2]


This overview has been drafted by the ADP team based on most available data as of  14 August 2018. 


[1] World Population Prospects, Population Division, United Nations

[2] World Development Indicators, The World Bank

[3] World Urbanization Prospects, Population Division, United Nations

[4] World Population Review

[5] UNHCR database; UNRWA in figures 2017

Demography Statistical Snapshot 2018
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Data Highlights

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