An upper-middle income country that is rich in natural resources, yet marred by conflict since 2003, Iraq has an estimated population of 39.3 million in 2018, growing by 2.8%, and with a life expectancy rate at birth of 70 years. [1,2] Iraq is an urbanized country (69.6% urban population in 2018), where youth, below 24 years of age, made up 60% of the total population in 2015. [1] Gripped by conflict and economic volatility, 6.7 million needed humanitarian assistance in 2018 and 1.9 million people were internally displaced. [3] By the end of 2018, Iraq also hosted 252 thousand Syrian refugees, mostly living in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. [4]


With higher anticipated investments and oil prices, alongside the improvements in the security conditions, the Iraqi economy seems to be on the road to conservative economic recovery. Real GDP growth rate reached 1.6% in 2018 and is projected to rise to 6.5% in 2019, after contracting to 2.1% in 2017. [5] Notably, the fiscal balance registered a surplus of 5.6% of GDP in 2018. In a country that is reliant on oil revenues (31.7% of government revenue in 2018[6], the plunge in oil prices in 2015/2016 and the ongoing conflict widened the fiscal deficit to 14.3% of GDP in 2016. [5] The positive prospects of growth and budget surplus are expected to reduce the government debt-to-GDP ratio from 66.0% in 2016 to 48.6% in 2019.[5,7] In the same context, the trade balance has also improved registering a surplus of 1.8% of GDP in 2018, up from a deficit of 1.8% in 2016. [6] Down from 53.2% in 2006, inflation dropped to low levels of 0.1% in 2017 and slightly increased to 2% in 2018, driven by higher domestic demand. [5] Iraq’s GDP (Purchasing Power Parity, constant prices) leveled at Int$ 599.5 billion and the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita amounted to Int$ 17,010 in 2017, almost equal to the regional average of Int$ 16,998. [2] 


Despite the slight improvements in the macroeconomy, Iraq continues to struggle with national poverty that reached 22.5% in 2014[7], after witnessing a decline from 22.9% in 2007 to 18.9% in 2012 [8]. According to the latest available data, 14.7% of the population lived in multi-dimensional poverty in 2016 and 4.9% remained vulnerable. [9] Along the same lines, youth unemployment in Iraq remains an ongoing challenge, estimated at 16.9% in 2018, largely affecting young women, whose unemployment rate reached 24.3%. [10] Despite holding 25.3% of the parliamentary seats (2017) [9], among the highest rates in the region, Iraqi women still face multifaceted challenges. Only 48.4% of the young women and 34 % of the adult women were literate in 2013. [11] Early marriage continues to prevail, where, according to the latest available data, almost one-fifth (24.3%) of women (aged 20-24) got married before reaching 18 years in 2011. [12]


The conflict in Iraq has had serious consequences for children. Three million children are in need of humanitarian assistance and have their education interrupted. [13] Child malnutrition, particularly stunting, is still prevalent in Iraq at a rate of 22.1% for under-five children according to the latest available data. [14] Only 4 out of 10 of children were fully vaccinated in 2018 and only 40% of the population had access to drinking water at home, placing children at grave risk of waterborne diseases. [15]



This overview has been drafted by the ADP team based on most available data as of 11 January 2019.




[1] World Population Prospects (2018). United Nations Population Division. [online] Available at:

[2] World Development Indicators (2018).. The World Bank. [online] Available at:

[3] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) (2018). [online] Available at:

[4] The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (31 December 2018). Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan 2017-2018 In Response to the Syria Crisis. [online] Available at:

[5] World Economic Outlook (October 2018). International Monetary Fund (IMF). [online] Available at:

[6] International Monetary Fund (IMF) (August 2017). IMF Country Report No. 17/251. [online] Available at:

[7] The World Bank (2018). Republic of Iraq. [online] Available at:

[8] Iraq Central Statistical Organization. [online] Available at:

[9] United Nations Development Programme (2018). Human Development Report.  [online] Available at:
[10] ILOSTAT (2018). International Labour Organization (ILO). [online] Available at:

[11] UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2018). United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). [online] Available at:

[12] SDG Global Database (2019). United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD). [online] Available at: at

[13] United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) (2019). Iraq. [online] Available at:

[14] Expanded Global Database on Stunting (May 2018). UNICEF, World Health Organization, and World Bank. [online] Available at:

[15] UNICEF (19 November 2018). Deep inequality continues to shape the lives of children in Iraq. [online] Available at:



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Data Highlighted

  • The tertiary gross enrollment ratio in Iraq has been on the rise since 2006, it reached 19.4% in 2015.

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