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, March 20, 2017

Egypt Struggles With Population Growth

Thanks to Todd Gardner (@PopGeog) for pointing out a story in today's Newsweek about the  continued rise in population in Egypt. The last time I blogged about Egypt was two years ago when I noted that the latest Demographic and Health Survey in Egypt revealed that the birth rate in Egypt was going up, not down. Furthermore, this was happening even to more educated women. Yikes!
Egypt’s population is multiplying fast. From a little over 66 million at the turn of the century, it hit almost 93 million earlier this year. If current birth rates hold, demographers project that the country’s total will be 150 million by 2050.
That kind of growth would be a challenge for almost any state, but for Egypt, politically fragile after three regime changes in six years and in the throes of food and water shortages, this population boom threatens to undermine the country’s already fragile stability. “It even constitutes a threat to national security,” says Amal Fouad, director of social research studies at CAPMAS [Central Agency for Population Mobilization and Statistics], the state statistics-gathering body.
Egypt is a huge importer of wheat and they pretty much already use up all the water in the Nile River, so it is very hard to know how they will cope a larger population. Let's just say that they aren't doing very well at the moment. 
Severe food and water shortages could lead to bread riots or other kinds of civil unrest, which worries the country’s security services. The revolution of 2011 was sparked, in part, by the economy’s inability to cope with the hundreds of thousands of young men entering the workforce each year. Now, with economic growth rates even weaker, and the education system still among the worst in the region, it’s no wonder some officials fear Egypt’s population growth. It’s “worse than terrorism,” Abu Bakr al-Gendy, the general in charge of CAPMAS, told a Cairo newspaper in December.
As I indicated back in 2015, the current government has to get back into the family planning game, but they have been more preoccupied by short-term security issues than long-term societal survival issues. The economy has to grow and it can't do it in the face of continued population growth. Thinking about the above quote that the 2011 revolution was sparked by unemployment among the large group of young men in the country, I am reminded that one of the most popular of my blog posts over the years has been the one in 2011 about "How poor is the average Egyptian?" Using World Bank data I concluded that:
So, Egypt has fewer desperately poor people (as a percentage of the population) than China, but the average income in China is higher than in Egypt. Will a change in government in Egypt change this situation? A lot of people on the street seem to think so.
So far, they have been wrong... 

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