Thursday, June 07, 2007

Syrian population – staring at disaster in the mirror

Most recent data + comment

Total population - 2004: 17.8 million (now 19.0 milion, excluding Iraqi refugees, numbering 1.5 million)

Residents of Damascus and Aleppo Governorates: 44.1% of population (7.8 milllion)

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 Syria*: 413,000

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 Syria as the country is not a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Convention on the status of refugees or its 1967 Protocol. Thus, questions of refugees and their status fall into a legal vacuum in Syria. Refugees are not allowed to work legally.

Girls’ Education

While Syria has nearly achieved gender parity in primary education, with levels at or near 90 percent nationally, there are still many areas of the country where girls are much more likely to drop out of school than boys. A rapid assessment of enrolment and dropout rates conducted in 2002 in Al-Heri Village in Deir Ezzor illustrates this point. The assessment indicated that more than 50 percent of children 6- to 17-years-old were either not enrolled, illiterate, or out of school. The same study reveals that 31 percent of girls age 6 to 17 were not enrolled or illiterate, while for boys it was only 5.8 percent.

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 Aleppo and Raqqa are 70 percent among the 15- to 19-year-old girls and 50-60 percent among 13- 18-year-old girls.

Source: UN Common Country Assessment 2005


COMMENT

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.






13 comments:

Nobody said...

greetings to his imperial majesty

sorry for asking a question that's slightly off topic ... are they still dancing in the streets in Syria ??

Nobody said...

4) Start armed conflicts that selectively kill 5 million unemployed Syrians in the next 10 years.

BTW i find this idea very practical ... unfortunately we can not currently help you with this as we are busy with the palestinians .. you will have to find somebody else to help you in implementing this solution ..

Nobody said...

a few days ago i read this about syria by reuters

DAMASCUS (Reuters)

. . .

. . .

RUNAWAY POPULATION GROWTH

Syria's population of 19 million is growing at 2.45 percent a year. More than 40 percent of Syrians are aged under 15 (means very low work force participation NB).

Economist Nabil Sukkar put unemployment at 20 percent, more than twice the official figure. He said Syria faced a difficult transition. Only the private sector could create new jobs as the public sector shrank, along with its ethos of secure employment.

"A draft labor law will reduce job security and the unions are resisting it," he said. "We need unemployment benefits and health care to make people feel less insecure."

. . .

. . .

Source

Philip I said...

Yes, nobody, most probably they are suffering a hangover, especially the regime-friendly merchants who underwrote the US$50m street party. I'm just waiting for Landis's latest report. The merchants will be waiting a long time for payback.

Thanks for the Reuters link. With one quarter of the population supporting itself and the other three quarters, Syria is committing nothing short of economic and military suicide.

But don't rub your hands with glee [I'm sure you wouldn't :)], weak nations with stifling political systems cannot deliver a lasting peace or contribute anything positive to their region or the world.

Nobody said...

But don't rub your hands with glee [I'm sure you wouldn't :)], weak nations with stifling political systems cannot deliver a lasting peace or contribute anything positive to their region or the world.

you have devastated me with this one .. just when i rubbed myself all over with glee, you remembered to tell me this ??!!

saint said...

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.

Dear Via Recta,
The fourth solution is not matter of choice and I do not think government what ever condition they are in will start a conflict to solve the problem.

The third solution is not doable since the oriental society rejects this idea and it will backlash on the government in case adopted as a policy.

The second solution is underway since the 80s of last century and sustained without admission with some indirect discriminate support of the government. Also, this solution is used by government to grand privileges in the laws like the inequality of payments for military services based on country of immigration. Also, government in Syria is using this solution to supplement its bankrupt budget by imposing laws to collect money from immigrants and their children without any rights in return. However, this solution still far from being systematized, ordained or even acknowledged. I remember in the 60s of last century, Lebanon government and people used to celebrate their immigrant’s population. It facilitated their visits, acknowledged their contribution and gave them gratitude without conditions. It did not deny them free speech nor criticism. The heart of the problem of this solution is that Syrian government although it has almost half of its population as immigrants still do not admit the global international fact of global economy. It looks to immigrants as their tools for their policy and divert this energy from reality to serve their agenda under the national thyme. Government of Syria stills advocate strong national policy and does not want to admit that those immigrants are now the citizens of other countries and it should respect that. Recent immigration conference is Syria emphasized the thyme of encouraging Syrians to come back and contribute to mother land economy. However, all laws issued are to encourage big capitals from trusted immigrants to invest. The conference did not give immigrant any of their demands which they have been begging for since the first conference. Actually, it was noticed from this conference how the Syrian government started making its internal policy of nepotism to stretch to its expatriates.

The first solution is really interesting and puzzling at the same time. I think the regime can perform this solution relatively easy. First way to perform this solution is to confiscate those estimated 100 billions dollars from current and previous official in the name of correction. Since their fortune is too high for their needs or survival. The second way is by an in-house coup which legalizes the confiscation of illegal wealth as they had done in the Sixties with their expropriations of upper class.
Off course smart government policies is combine more than one solution by investing, acknowledging all sections of societies and its contribution, decentralizing, birth rate control and in abolishing the national rigid policies.

Via Recta, I appreciate if you can add your evaluation and elaboration of my comment.

Philip I said...

saint

Thank you for your comment.

I was of course being sarcastic about all the options except the first.

But I agree totally with your last point that the government must explore and exploit all reasonable options.

Let me though make this point clear. The government in Syria cannot be accused of being ignorant. Far from it. Our tragedy as a nation is that we have very smart people being complacent and negligent and some of them being dishonest and knowingly committing moral crimes against their own people and their future welfare to stay in power.

Your observations about the expatriates conference are interesting. I know of several Syrians who invested a large part of their savings in Syria in the period 2001-2004. They have now returned to the US and Europe feeling bitter about the endemic bureaucracy and corruption that robbed them of their chance to contribute something positive to their country. As you say, the regime regards Syrian expatriates merely as cash cows or tools for underwriting or legitimising its own policies. Not everyone is welcome, only those who can be co-opted are let in with special privileges.

The fact is that the potential investments of Syrian expatriates are a drop in the ocean. Syria needs a collosul amount of capital each year. Your view that the assets of corrupt officials could be confiscated and reinvested in the economy is fine in principle, but such assets are probably held in real estate and secret foreign accounts abroad. It is difficult to see how a new government would be able to identify and repatriate such assets. Even then, it is doubtful that the government can make as good investment decisions on behalf of the nation as the private sector.

Antony said...

My name is Antony Loewenstein and I'm an Australian about to hit Damascus. I'm keen to meet Syrian bloggers. Can you help?
My website is: antonyloewenstein.com
My email: antloew (at) gmail.com

Look forward to hearing from you.
Best wishes,
Antony

Lirun said...

interesting

Caesar :P said...

Nice thing you've got here, Philip :)

But I've got a question, what's your reference? I checked up all the statistics, they're true except for one I seriously am skeptical of and can't find anything official, the average female age of marriage.

The problem is I've seen this number before but dismissed it as some sort of propoganda. I mean come on!!! 25!!!

Anonymous said...

very helpful! thank you

Your Butt said...

Hello!

bjs9119 said...

hey