Most recent data + comment
Total population - 2004: 17.8 million (now 19.0 milion, excluding Iraqi refugees, numbering 1.5 million)
Growth rate 1981 – 1994: 3.3%
Growth rate 2001-2005: 2.46% (at this rate the population will double in 28 years)
Population under 15: 39.6% (7.1 million)
Population of working age (15-59): 54.6% (9.8 million)
Unemployment rate: 20% (unofficial estimate and ignoring the equally serious under-employment of well-qualified workers)
Palestinian refugees in
Literacy rate – males: 91.0%
Literacy rate – females: 74.2%
Average age at first marriage – males: 29.4 years
Average age at first marriage – females: 25.6 years
Mothers under 19 years of age: account for 25% of all pregnancies in 2001
Mothers 20-24 years of age: account for 21% of all pregnancies in 2001
Fertility rate: 3.8 children per woman
First cousin marriages: almost one third of all marriages
Incidence of congenital or hereditary child disabilities: ¼ of first cousins’ marriages
Contraceptive prevalence – urban areas: 54% (2004)
Contraceptive prevalence – rural areas: 38% (2004)
Mortality rate for infants: 18 per 1000
Mortality rate for children under 5: 20.2 per 1000
* There are no legal protections for refugees in
In many rural areas it is still a prevailing attitude that girls should be brought up to become wives and mothers only and thus is not important for them to be educated beyond basic literacy. This belief also prevails among some conservative communities in urban areas. Thus, socio-economic factors are those deterring girl children from attending school. Elder girls often take care of younger brothers and sisters, and are expected to assist their mothers with household work. If the family cannot afford to send all children to school, boys are often given preference. Early marriage in rural areas is another reason for girls to leave school; the rates of early marriage among girls in the governorates of
At present 4.5 million employed Syrians feed themselves and 14 million other Syrians who are too young to work, housewives , old, incapacitated or cannot find jobs. The infomal economy and money transfers back home by Syrian expatriates help to keep many families above subsistance level.
The combination of high unemployment, widespread under-employment, rapid population growth and diminishing oil revenues means Syrians are speeding towards an economic and social disaster. The country is faced with four stark choices:
1) Increase investment on a massive scale (at least US$10 billion per year, or 25% of GDP) to create at least 5 million jobs over the next decade (especially for women), while improving productivity.
2) Export 5 million unemployed Syrians to the rest of the world in the next 10 years
3) Force every woman of child-bearing age to take contraceptives indefinitely
4) Start armed conflicts that selectively kill 5 million unemployed Syrians in the next 10 years.
Shocked? So you should be. Ask your newly "re-elected" parliament and president what they are doing to attract US$ 10 billion of investment capital per year. Prominent Syrian economists estimated foreign invetment at only US$300m in 2006 whereas vice-prime minister for economic affairs, Abdulla Dardari had told reporters a year earlier that Syria would pull in US$ 2 billion.