An island-state , Bahrain has the smallest population of all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. The estimated population is 1.6 million people, growing at 5% in 2018.[1] 47% of the population was below 30 years old in 2015.[1]  Like all GCC countries, Bahrain is highly urbanized with an urbanization rate of 88.8% and.[2,3]  In a country highly relying on foreign labor, migrants accounted for 53% of the population in 2016.[2] Zooming into the labor dynamics, the unemployment rate in Bahrain remained relatively stable in the range of 3-4% over the last six years and amounting to 4.3% in 2016.[2] Women, however, have been the most affected, with 6,998 unemployed women, out of 8,458 unemployed nationals.[2] 

The education prospects in Bahrain are positive. With a government expenditure at around 2.7% of GDP in 2016, Bahrain has the second lowest out of school children (primary school age) in the region at 1.14% in 2017. At the same time, Bahrain has high primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrollment ratios at 101%, 102.8%, and 45.5% respectively in 2017. Bahrain has achieved gender parity at the primary and secondary stages and ranks second, among the GCC countries, in its tertiary Gender Parity Index at 1.95 in 2017.[4]

With the plunge in international oil prices as of mid-2014, external and fiscal vulnerabilities have deepened in Bahrain. The GDP growth rate (constant 2005 prices) slowed down to 2.9% in 2015, down from 5.4% in 2013, but projected to increase to 3.2% in 2018.[5] Recovery in oil output and more diversification away from hydrocarbons is expected to support growth. As an important driver for economic diversification, the services sector, particularly finance, have been key a driver for Bahrain's economy; in 2017, the financial sector contributed to around 16% of the GDP.[6] Bahrain’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita reached Int$ 42,930 in 2017, compared to an Arab average of Int$ 16,997, and with an annual GDP per capita contraction of 0.81%.[5,7]

While still a minor player in the oil market, Bahrain produced 17.8 million barrels of crude oil in 2016, the least among the GCC countries.[2] In April 2018, Bahrain announced a huge discovery of offshore oil and gas in the Persian Gulf containing up to 80bn barrels of oil.[8] Despite diversification attempts, Bahrain relies heavily on oil gas as a primary source of income, with oil and gas constituting around 75.7% of total government revenues in 2016.[9] Bahrain’s cash balance has been in deficit since 2009 and reached 1.6 billion Bahraini Dinar in 2016, accompanied by a decline of 38.5% in Government revenues between 2014 and 2016.[9] Despite slight fluctuations, the inflation rate averaged 2.4% over the last 6 years.[6] Meanwhile, the gross debt has been witnessing a significant rise reaching 88.4% of GDP in 2018, up from up 12.6% in 2008.[5]

In 2016, Bahrain registered a deficit in its trade balance at 684 million Bahraini Dinar, from a surplus of 115.8 in 2015.[2] Bahrain’s economy remains highly dependent on trade, with international trade-to-GDP ratio amounting to 139.6% in 2016 and with its main trading partners being China, USA, and Saudi Arabia.[7] Oil constitutes the main export commodity for Bahrain, accounting for 55% of its merchandise exports in 2016.[7] On the other hand, Bahrain’s main imports consist of manufactured goods (60% of merchandise imports in 2016) and refined petroleum products (23% of merchandise imports in 2016).[7]


This overview has been drafted by the ADP team based on most available data as of 3 January 2019.



[1] World Population Prospects, Population Division, United Nations

[2] Bahrain Open Data Portal

[3] World Urbanization Prospects, Population Division, United Nations

[4] UNESCO Institute for Statistics

[5] World Economic Outlook Database, October 2018, International Monetary Fund (IMF)

[6] Bahrain Association of Banks (2018). Economic and Banking Bulletin First Quarter 2018. Available at: [Accessed 4 January 2019]

[7] World Development Indicators, The World Bank

[8] BBC (4 April 2018). Bahrain discovers offshore oilfield 'containing 80bn barrels'. [online’] Available at [Accessed 3 Jan 2019]

[9] ADP team computations based on figures extracted from the Information & eGovernment Authority, Bahrain Data Portal. [Accessed 3 Jan 2019]

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