Egyptian President Blames Birth Rate for Poor Economic Performance

The BBC reported in September that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak said that the real problem facing Egypt is its high birth. According to the BBC,

Now, President Mubarak’s remarks have touched on one of the most fundamental problems facing Egypt, and which is often forgotten when discussing the country’s problems – rapid population growth.

The number of Egyptians born every year far outpaces projected growth rates for the economy.</p.

According to official figures, the population increases at the rate of about 2% annually.

At that rate, Mr Mubarak said, Egypt’s 70 million people will have grown to 85 million in 10 years’ time.

According to the International Monetary Fund, economic growth in Egypt is forecast to be about 3% for the next year – way below what is needed to absorb the ever growing number of the unemployed.

Give me a break.

Yes, Egypt still has a relatively high total fertility rate. In 1965, its TFR was 7.0, which fell to 3.4 by 1998. Egypt is currently projected to achieve a TFR of 2.0 sometime between 2020-2025.

Due to the age structure of Egypt’s population, this means that the country will stabilize at a population of around 115 million, compared to its 1995 population of 62.3 million.

But there is nothing inherent in such population growth that would cause unemployment and the other problems afflicting Egypt. Rather, those are due primarily to the general global economic downturn combined with Egyptian policies that deter foreign investment and generally have retarded Egyptian economic growth. There’s only so much economic growth you can squeeze out of low-yield agriculture and tourism.


Birth rate ‘hurts Egypt’s economy’. The BBC, September 22, 2003.

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