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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Are Demographics Involved in the Protests in Yemen?

The turmoil in Egypt, especially Cairo, has grabbed the headlines for the past few days, but protests have been ongoing in Yemen, as well, as reported by the BBC:

Yemen suffers from high population growth, unemployment running at 40%, rising food prices and acute levels of malnutrition.
Yemeni protesters are calling for a more responsive, inclusive government and improved economic conditions but - with oil production falling - the current economic trend is heading downwards.
Public demonstrations across the region are raising the stakes for change in Yemen.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh came to power in 1978, first as president of North Yemen and then, after unification with South Yemen in 1990, as leader of the newly united republic.
After 30 years in power, he faces widespread complaints of corruption and the concentration of power within his tribal sub-group, the Sanhan clan.
Large areas of the country are already in open revolt against his regime, with a breakaway movement in the south, attacks on the security services by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and a de-facto semi-autonomous area under the control of northern rebels.
When Saleh came into power Yemen (both combined) had a population of 8 million, women were averaging 8.7 children each, and a whopping 70 percent of the population was under the age of 25. But since then the infant death rate has dropped to only a fourth of what it was in 1980 and life expectancy has increased by 15 years, while the TFR has dropped to only 5.3. The predictable result is massive population growth. There are now 24 million Yemenis--a tripling over Saleh's rule, and 66 percent of them are under 25, and more than one in five is between the ages of 15-24. In a country with limited resources, the pressure for change has been building steam for a long time.


  1. Thanks, I have long been interested in Yemen. We always hear that the birth rates in countries like Yemen are falling, and you mention that they are. But do you think it will stabilize around 5? Or continue to decline further? I know the health care system and education for women in Yemen are very rudimentary, and in some places practically non-existent. which leads me to guess that the birthrate in Yemen will not decrease much more, but you're the expert on these topics so I'd like to hear your input. I would also add that the lack of political stability means that expanding education and women's rights do not seem viable at the moment. I await your response.

  2. My guess is that fertility will drop slowly, especially as a result of women delaying marriage. But the slowness of the decline will likely mean that population will continue to grow well beyond the level that the economy of Yemen can absorb.