The spread and amplification of Syria’s armed conflict have led to a humanitarian crisis with 6.5 million internally displaced persons and 4.2 million refugees by the end of 2015, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the life expectancy at birth has fallen reaching 69.6 years in 2015 compared to 72.6 years fifteen years ago. In 2010, Syria’s population was estimated at 20.7 million, but it dropped to 18.5 million in 2015. The population under the age of 30 made up 64.5% of the total population in 2015 compared to 71.5% in 2000. It is estimated that 57% of the total population in Syria in 2014 lived in urban areas compared to 52% in 2000.
In 2009, 7.2% (1.5 million people) of the Syrian population were counted as multi-dimensionally poor, while 7.4% (1.6 million) lived near multidimensional poverty. Currently, three in four Syrians live in poverty and 67% live in extreme poverty. As of March 2016, 13.5 million people were counted as in need of humanitarian assistance, 4.8 million are refugees, and 6.6 million are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Furthermore, 70% of the Syrian population is without regular access to safe drinking water as a result of water cuts and destruction of basic physical infrastructure in some areas.
Since the onset of the conflict in March 2011, school attendance has fallen by more than 50%, and Syria witnessed reversals in education and the gains on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) it had once achieved. Syria witnessed a drop in primary enrollment rate to 93.9 in 2014 down from 128.7% in 2011, and a decline in secondary enrollment to 53% in 2014 down from 75.3% in 2011. In 2015, 1 out of 4 Syrian schools was either damaged, destroyed or used as collective shelters for IDPS. Over 2 million children in Syria and the host countries are not attending basic and secondary schools.
Once a country with a GDP (current prices) of USD 60 billion and a GDP per capita of USD 2,807 (2010), the Syrian economy has contracted by an estimated 50% since March 2011. The GDP contraction was partly attributed to a sharp decline in oil production. After increasing by 89.6% in 2013, inflation increased further by 29% and 38.5% in 2014 and 2015, respectively, due to trade disruptions, shortages and route blockages. With a rise in the staple food prices, especially in the besieged and hard-to-reach areas, 6.3 million people in Syria were food insecure in 2015, with another 2.4 million facing a high risk of food insecurity. At the fiscal level, the fiscal deficit increased sharply by an average of 15.7% of GDP during the period 2011-2014, and was likely to reach 22% of GDP in 2015 coupled with a collapse in oil and tax collection and rise in military expenditures.
Prior to the crisis, Syrian exports amounted to 569 billion Syrian pounds in 2010 were mainly made up of fuels and lubricants (46%) and food and beverages (18%). The structure of these exports, with their total value dropping by half from 32.4% of GDP in 2010 to 15.2% of GDP in 2015, have changed during the crisis. Increasingly, livestock is exported to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, while Syrian agricultural exports decreased. Syria’s major imports include industrial supply materials, petroleum products, agricultural products and machinery and equipment.
Aggravated by the trade embargo, intermittent closure of cross-borders and airports, a deteriorating nationwide distribution and supply networks and high costs of transportation, foreign trade in Syria has suffered from unprecedented deficits reaching 42.7% of GDP in 2014.
Syria is not a member of the WTO, even though it has submitted a request to begin the accession process in 2001 and 2004. It is a member of the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement (GAFTA) since 2005. The Free Trade Agreement between Syria and Turkey came into force in 2007. Syria has signed FTAs with Jordan, India, Belarus, Egypt and Slovakia. The EU has negotiated an Association Agreement with Syria in 2004; however, the signature of the Association Agreement has been put on hold by the EU due to the internal situation in Syria.
The labor market in Syria was facing difficulties even before the crisis in the spring of 2011, as the labor force participation rate declined from 50.8% in 2000 to 43.5% in 2010, it then remained constant during the 2012-2014 period at 43.6% and dropped to 41.7% in 2015. Women labor force participation rate also witnessed a decline from 20.4% in 2000 to 13.2% in 2010, then registering the lowest in the Arab region in 2015 of rate 12.2%. Moreover, employment in Syria decreased during the 2010-2011 period, with employment in the private sector witnessing a decline from 72.9% in 2010 to 69.7% in 2011, whereas employment in the public sector increased from 26.9% in 2010 to 30.1%. This crisis had a big impact on the livelihoods of the Syrians with unemployment rate rising from 8.4% to 14.9% in 2011. According to KILM, this rate decreased to 12.3% in 2015, but based on other sources, unemployment rate reached between 40% and 57% in the period 2012-2014 and was estimated to hit around 60% in 2015. Youth unemployment rate witnessed a significant change during the period of the crisis, increasing from 19.3% in 2010 to 33.7% in 2011, then slightly decreasing to 28.5% in 2015. Noting that the situations in Syria pushed many children to join the labor market in order to support their families.
As a result of the crisis, the energy sector faced a number of challenges, as Syria witnessed a significant decline in oil and natural gas production. Crude oil production, which accounted 190.8 million barrels back in 2000, declined to 140 million barrels in 2010. This level dropped dramatically to reach 8.3 million barrels in 2014, which is a drop of 93% since the 2011 conflict. Net oil exports decreased from 110.7 million barrels in 2000 to almost half the amount at 55.6 million barrels in 2010. In 2012, Syria was no longer able to export crude oil, with net oil exports registering zero down from 36.5 million barrels in 2011.
Syria's natural gas sector was also affected by the crisis, but not as much crude oil. Natural gas production decreased by 32.7% during the period 2011-2013, falling from 277.9 billion cubic feet in 2011 to 187.2 billion cubic feet in 2013. Given the country’s demand, it has never produced enough amounts of natural gas to export. In 2008, Syria became a net importer of natural gas, with net natural gas exports registering negative 4.9 billion cubic feet. This level increased to negative 24.4 billion cubic feet in 2010, but the 2011 conflict has affected the ability of the country to receive natural gas, leading to a drop in net natural gas exports to negative 12.4 billion cubic feet in 2013.
This overview has been drafted by the ADP team based on most available data as of 30 September 2016.