The population in the Arab countries has been increasing over the past decades. The Arab region is home to 428.3 million inhabitants, growing from 215.5 million in 1990 and estimated to reach 436.3 million by 2020. Today, the Arab population represents 5.55 percent of the world population with 80 percent of the region’s population being concentrated in eight countries: Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Syria.[1]


The increase in population in the past three decades is mainly due to the rapid decline in the mortality rates, improved life expectancy and the less-rapid decline in the fertility rates in the Arab region. In the last three decades, infant mortality rate declined from 58.3 per 1000 live births to 27.6 per live births, life expectancy at birth increased from 64.3 years to 71.4 years, and fertility rates decreased from 5 to 3 births per woman in 2017.


Nonetheless, the demographic profiles of the Arab countries vary widely. Many countries in the region lag behind in terms of life expectancy and high mortality and fertility rates. For example, while the fertility rate is less than 2 births per woman in Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, it exceeds 4 births per woman in Comoros, Iraq, Mauritania, Sudan, and Somalia, and are expected to bridge the gap slowly.[2]


The population in the Arab Region is relatively young, with youth aged 15 to 24 years representing 17 percent of the total population, where half of the population live in four countries, namely Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, and Yemen.[1]


Many Arab countries are experiencing large population movements from rural to urban areas, with more than 58.8 percent of the Arab population living in urban areas and with urbanization growing at an average rate of 1 percent per year between 2015 and 2020. The population of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is the most rapidly urbanizing in the region, ranging from 83.8 percent in Saudi Arabia to 100 percent in Kuwait in 2018.[3]


Thanks to the progress in health care, the region’s average maternal mortality rate 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.[2]


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, for example, amount to 1.1 million in Kuwait and makeup 13 percent of the total Qatari population in 2019.[4]


The Arab region was home to 14.5 million refugees -including the Palestinian refugees- representing 55% of world refugees. The spread and amplification of Syria’s armed conflict, in particular, have led to a humanitarian crisis with 6.15 million internally displaced persons and 6.3 million refugees by the end of 2017.[5]



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


[1] Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. 2017. World Population Prospects. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 06 February 2019].
[2] The World Bank. 2018. World Development Indicators. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 June 2019].
[3] Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. 2018. World Urbanization Prospects. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 June 2019].
[4] World Population Review. 2019. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 25 June 2019].
[5] ADP calculations based on data from UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency), 2017.

Demography Statistical Snapshot 2018
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