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 13th (it will be out in January 2020), 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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Monday, July 7, 2014

The Future of Arab Society

The Arab world in the Middle East and North Africa is currently under tremendous stress, capturing the cover of this week's Economist with the headline "The tragedy of the Arabs." Much of the stress is due to the incredible increase in population size within predominantly Arab nations as a result of declining child mortality (imported from the West) coupled with birth rates that, even if lower than in the past, are still well above replacement level in almost all areas except smaller, more economically developed places such as Lebanon, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.

Solutions to the region's problems go beyond politics. They lie buried in demography and culture that help to drive the politics. Fortunately, there is at least one group trying to understand these issues and hopefully do something about them. The Arab Council for the Social Sciences, based in Beirut, Lebanon, just announced a call for papers for a conference to be held in March 2015 on the topic of Questioning Social Inequality and Difference in the Arab Region.
In the Arab region, inequality between social groups and classes has risen markedly in the past two decades with increasing regional and sub-regional disparities within countries. These intersect with various other structural forms of difference including regional, ethnic, linguistic, religious, tribal and so on. Significantly, Tunisia, the country of an “economic miracle” according to the IMF and the World Bank, was the first country to initiate the wave of “Arab uprisings”, in no small part due to the “miracle” being focused on the capital and northern coastal cities, not the interior of Tunisia or the south.
One reaction to the instability in the region is to get out, and many have headed to Europe. This has generated yet another upcoming conference (October 2014): The next Population Europe Event will be held in Rome in cooperation with Sapienza University of Rome, Neodemos, and the Italian National Institute of Statistics: The topic is The Stranger Among Us. Immigration Policies and Social Cohesion in Europe. Announced participants include some of Italy's best known demographers, including Graziella Caselli, Gianpiero Dalla Zuanna, and Massimo Livi Bacci. Changing demographics do indeed turn the future into a foreign country. To be sure, the motto of Population Europe is: Demography Drives Your Future.

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