By mid-2015, the Arab region was home to 392.4 million inhabitants representing 5% of the world population and growing by 2% in 2015. The two most populous countries in the region are Egypt (91.5 million) and Sudan (40.2 million), while the population in Comoros and Djibouti is less than one million in 2015.[1]

The Arab Region is undergoing a slow demographic transition to lower population growth and fertility rates similar to other regions.[2] In the last three decades, fertility in the Arab Region declined from 5.8 births per woman to 3.4 births per woman in 2014. However, the demographic profiles of the Arab countries vary widely. In many countries in the region, the fertility and population growth rates are still high. For example, while the fertility rate is less than 2 births per woman in Lebanon and United Arab Emirates, it exceeds 4 births per woman in Iraq, Comoros, Mauritania, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen in 2014.[3]


Higher educational attainment, the decline in economic opportunity and the high cost of marriage led to an increase in the average age at marriage for both men and women in the Arab region and hence the decline in fertility rates.[4]


Populations in the Arab Region are relatively young, with youth aged 15 to 29 years representing close to one-third of the total Arab population, where half of them live in four countries: Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, and Iraq.[1] 

Many countries in the Arab Region are experiencing large population movements from rural to urban areas, as young men and women leave agricultural employment in quest of supposedly more reliable and better-paid urban jobs. More than half of the Arab population now lives in urban areas and the urbanization rate is growing at an average rate of 2.5% per year in 2015. The population of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is highly urbanized, ranging from 83% in Saudi Arabia to 98% in Kuwait in2015.[5]


Migration has traditionally been a distinct feature of the Arab region. The poorer countries in the Arab region have witnessed considerable outflows, sometimes illegal to Europe and to richer countries in the region, especially to the member states of the GCC. Arab expatriates amount to 1.1 million in Kuwait and makeup 13% of the total Qatari population in 2013.[6] 


Recently, the migration level in the Arab region has tremendously increased. The net migration in the Arab region reached negative 1.2 million right after the Arab Spring compared to 4.4 million in 2007.[3] 


Political instability, violent conflicts, and food insecurity brought about an increase in the population displacement in the Arab region. By mid-2015, the Arab region was home to 11.6 million refugees (including the Palestinian refugees) representing 58% of world refugees, and 16.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) making up 47% of the world IDPs.[7] The spread and amplification of Syria’s armed conflict, in particular, have led to a humanitarian crisis with 6.5 million internally displaced persons and 4.2 million refugees by the end of 2015.[8]


Despite the protracted humanitarian and economic situation, the Arab region’s average maternal mortality rate has decreased from 238 per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 156 per 100,000 live births in 2015, compared to a world average of 216 per 100,000 live births in 2015. The regional maternal mortality rate hides high discrepancies between the Arab countries, with maternal mortality ranging from 4 per 100,000 live births in Kuwait to 732 per 100,000 live births in Somalia in 2015.[3] 


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. UNDP, Regional Bureau for Arab States, Arab Human Development Report Research Paper Series, Barry Mirkin, 2013, Arab Spring: Demographics in a region in transition
  3. World Development Indicators, The World Bank
  4. Rashad, Hoda, Osman, Magued and Roudi-Fahimi, Farzaneh. 2005. Marriage in the Arab World. MENA Policy Brief, Population Reference Bureau. September. Washington, D.C.
  5. World Urbanization Prospects, Population Division, United Nations
  6. World Population Review
  7. UNHCR mid-year trends June 2015; UNRWA in figures 2015
  8. UNHCR

Demography Statistical Snapshot 2018
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