Libya is a large country with the lowest population density, of 3.5 inhabitants per square kilometer, among the Arab countries.[1] More than three-quarters of the 6.2 million Libyan population live in urban areas (2015), a rate that has been relatively stable since 2000.[2] 

The age structure has been changing in Libya as the share of the population below 30 years of age decreased from 87.7% in 2000 to 70.1% in 2015,[1] with a life expectancy at birth of 71 years in 2015 and fertility rate stable at around 2.6 births since 2000.[1] Furthermore, the maternal mortality decreased from 17 per 100,000 in 2000 to only 9 per 100,000 in 2015.[3] 

No updates on the poverty incidence have been reported since 2007 when it was reported that more than 790,000 people, representing around 14% of the population at that time, were multi-dimensionally poor, while an additional 6.3%, around 364,000 people, lived near multidimensional poverty.[5]

As a result of the escalation of violence in 2011 that erupted into a renewed civil war in May 2014, 2.4 million Libyans are today in need of humanitarian assistance and 435,000 are considered as internally displaced persons (IDPs).[6] At the same time, there are 250,000 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants residing in Libya after fleeing violence and political turmoil in other areas in Africa and the Middle East.[6]

The conflict affected education attainment in Libya, as access to education has significantly deteriorated, specifically in Benghazi, where 73% of schools are no more functioning and many are used as collective centers for IDPs.[8] As a result, school enrollment rates have dropped by one-fifth and 150,000 children have become out of school.[7] It is important to note here that as a result of investment in education over the period 2000-2009, adult literacy rate in Libya increased to 91.4% in 2015, up from 85.4% in 2000, but the recent deterioration will likely reverse this progress.[3] 

Before the onset of the crisis, Libya's economy was centrally planned and the economy heavily relied on crude oil and natural gas activities, which contributed to 54.6% of GDP in 2009.[4] The Libyan economy has been driven into recession since 2013,[9] caused by the decline in oil prices and the protracted armed conflict that disrupted the activity of the hydrocarbon sector. In 2015, GDP (Purchasing Power Parity, constant 2011 prices) leveled at Int$ 83.6 billion.[3] Since 2011, real GDP growth (constant 2005 prices) has become noticeably volatile. The strong economic contraction in 2011, reflected by a real GDP growth rate of -62.1% was followed by a high and positive real GDP growth rate of 104.5% in 2012. However, since 2013, the economy contracted again and the real GDP growth rate scored -13.5% in 2013 and -6.4% in 2015.[10] After reaching a level of 15.9% in 2011, the inflation rate dropped to 8% in 2015.[10]

At the fiscal level, Libya suffered from a fiscal deficit of 79.1% of GDP in 2015.[10] Fiscal revenues declined from 39.1% of GDP in 2011 to 21.3% of GDP in 2015, while expenditures increased by almost 50% between 2011 and 2015.[10] Noting that the large wage bill and subsidies constituted around 69% of GDP in 2015.[9] At the same time, the Government gross debt to GDP increased from 1.6% in 2011 to 65.4% in 2015.[10]

The country highly depends on external trade where international trade-to-GDP ratio scored 144% of GDP in 2014, while exports and imports of goods and services amount to 47% and 97% of GDP, respectively.[3] Oil exports are Libya’s biggest exports, amounting to 97% of the country’s exports and re-exports of goods in 2010.[4] With the lifting of the sanctions in 2013, Libya opened its economy to foreign investment and made a bid to be part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and adopted several trade liberalization reforms, i.e. limiting the number of import bans, abolishing most licenses, and reducing subsidies. Libya is a member of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) and the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), with bonds with the Community of Sahel–Saharan States (CEN‐SAD) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). It has also signed bilateral trade agreements with Morocco and Jordan.

Unemployment rate has increased in Libya from 11.3% in 2010 to 17.4% in 2013, and like other Arab countries it is the women who are severely affected by unemployment. Women unemployment rate doubled in only three years, where it rose from 11.3% in 2010 to 22.4% in 2013, while unemployment rate for men rose only by 2% from 11.3% in 2010 up to 14.5% in 2013. Unemployment was highest among the youth, of the age group 15-24 which leveled at 48.7% in 2012. It was – especially high among young women recording 67.9% compared to 40.9% for young men in 2012 – and was the lowest among the age group 55-64 years with a rate of 2.8% in 2012.[4]

Libya is an oil-rich country, holding Africa’s largest proved crude oil reserves, and being the fifth-largest holder of Africa’s proved natural gas reserves. The country is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) since 1962.

Following the 2011 civil war, Libyan crude oil production declined from 634 million barrels in 2008 to approximately 170 million barrels in 2011, but it recovered relatively quickly where the production rose to 499 million barrels in 2012. Due to extensive protests which led to the closure of loading ports, oil fields, and pipelines, the country’s hydrocarbon sector was disrupted again in 2013 and crude oil production dropped to 172 million barrels in 2014 down from 335 million barrels in 2013. Like its oil sector, Libya’s natural gas industry recovered in 2012, where production increased to 430.9 billion cubic feet after registering 277.4 billion cubic feet in 2011, but still remains below the pre-war level of 593.8 billion cubic feet in 2010.[11]

Libya typically exports most of its crude oil and natural gas to the European countries where net oil exports amounted to 485 million barrels in 2012 and net natural gas exports 194.7 billion cubic feet in 2013.[12]


This overview has been drafted by the ADP team based on most available data as of 30 September 2016. 


  1. World Population Prospects, Population Division, United Nations
  2. World Urbanization Prospects, Population Division, United Nations
  3. The World Bank, World Development Indicators,
  4. Bureau of Statistics and Census (BSC)
  5. UNDP Human Development Report 2015
  6. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), Feb 2016, “Humanitarian Bulletin: The crisis that should not be
  7. UNESCO Institute for Statistics
  8. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), Nov 2015, “Humanitarian Response Plan Oct 2015- Dec 2016
  9. The World Bank
  10. International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  11. International Energy Statistics, U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)
  12. ADP calculations based on data extracted from the  International Energy Statistics, U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

Libya Statistical Snapshot 2016
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Data Highlighted

  • In Libya, like other Arab countries, it is the women who are severely affected by unemployment. Women unemployment rate more than doubled in recent years, where it rose from 11.3% in 2010 to 24.7% in 2018.

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