This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (copyright 2015--it will be out soon), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Catching the Cairo Overflow

Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is bulging at the seams. With more than 11 million residents and counting, there isn't room for everybody, so the government has been building satellite cities. The first of these is 6 October City, about 20 miles west of Cairo. Construction for this city actually began in 1979 and when I visited there in 1982 it was populated mainly by empty apartment buildings. However, the government has recommitted itself to the project, largely by handing it over to private investors who have built gated communities with golf courses and have created an exurb for more affluent Cairenes, alongside poorer laborers who are confronted by an enormous commute to work.
Enormous subdivisions have sprung up in the dunes outside of Cairo, on an almost incomprehensible scale. Already a million people have moved to 6 October City, due west of Cairo, named for the date of the 1973 war between Egypt and Israel still hailed as a seminal Arab victory. A similar number have moved east of the city, to a settlement unimaginatively dubbed “New Cairo.”

The government’s original plans — which are widely considered more wishful than literal — conceived of 6 October City’s expanding to 3 million by 2020 and New Cairo to 4 million, primarily as havens for working-class Cairenes. So far, however, the overwhelming majority of new residents come from Egypt’s uppermost economic strata.

This overflow is, of course, a result of the huge youth bulge that Egypt confronts after decades of a much higher birth rate than infant death rate. Fertility is declining, but the momentum of past high fertility is sweeping the country, and Cairo, along.

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