“Syrian Population Growth and Unemployment” by Ehsani

Syrian population            jobs needed               jobs needed

If 2.7% growth             If 50%  labor partic.    If 66%  labor participation

2010      23,621,000            310,500                 409,860

2015      26,986,425            354,743                 468,261

2020      30,832,072            405,290                 534,983

2025      35,225,319            463,040                 611,212

2030      40,244,557            529,018                 698,304

2035      45,978,984            604,398                 797,805

2040      52,530,506            690,518                 911,484

2045      60,015,552            788,909                1,041,360

2050      68,567,138            901,321                1,189,743

The number of jobs listed in the chart above is the number required to keep Syria’s unemployment rate from rising above what it is today. In order to actually lower the current unemployment rate double digit economic growth will be needed.

Syria’s population is supposedly growing around 2.7%. If one assumes that today’s population is 23 million,
in the year 2015 it will be 26.9mm ; 2020= 30.8 mm ; 2025 = 35.2 mm ; 2030 = 40.2 mm ; 2035 = 46 mm

Since a country like Syria has close to 50% of its population under the age of 18, and a large percentage of women donnot work, the percent seeking employment (the labor force) could be as low as 50% (it is 66% in the USA).

If my 50% labor participation rate is accurate, then Syria needs to create close to 320,000 jobs a year to make sure that the unemployment rate stays the same. By 2035, this number will be 604,000 a year. The reality is that more women are/will enter the labor force going forward. Those under 18 will also move into the ranks of seeking employment as the population ages a bit from where we are today. Just in case 66% of the population seeks employment (as is the case in the U.S.) the country would need to create 420,000 jobs today and 800,000 jobs in the year 2035. The only solution is for real economic growth to exceed 8-9% ASAP………..

The following chart is from the IMF

In Syria, youth comprise 61 percent of the total unemployed population. Of all unemployed Syrians between 15 and 29 years old, 80 percent are interested in public sector jobs while 60 percent are seeking jobs exclusively in the public sector.     * As of 2007, the total unemployment rate in Jordan remained at 13 percent, and youth aged 15 to 29 comprised 73 percent of the unemployed. Between 2001 and 2007, 63 percent of new jobs created in Jordan were filled by foreign workers.      * By 2006, more than 70 percent of first-time job entrants in Egypt found employment in the informal sector. Only 11 percent of Egyptians who find their first jobs in the informal sector are able to secure formal second jobs later.

* In Syria, youth comprise 61 percent of the total unemployed population. Of all unemployed Syrians between 15 and 29 years old, 80 percent are interested in public sector jobs while 60 percent are seeking jobs exclusively in the public sector.

Comments (11)

Alex said:

Dear Ehsani,

I’m glad you brought to our attention the potential crisis that Syria might face because of its fast growing population.

I will share here on SC my observations on this table that we discussed by email earlier this morning.

1) the 23 millions figure includes millions of Syrians who live outside but come back to renew their identity cards and passports … the real number living in Syria s probably 18 to 20 millions.

2) The 50% participation rate is probably exaggerated too. Think of all those who are below 18 .. think of how in Syria parents want their children to finish university education (and sometimes their graduate university education) before they work … think of all the women who do not want to work, all the old people, and all those in the countryside who are self employed …

I would say the actual number is closer to 30 to 40%

3) the assumption that Syria’s population will continue to grow at a constant 2.7% for the next thirty years is a very liberal one. I imagine that as the government starts to face more challenges because of the currently high population growth rate, it will at some point have to start educating its population and promoting family planning. Besides, “globalization” and significantly higher exposure to other cultures which started with the current generation of young Syrians (through access to the internet and satellite TV) will probably start to influence the way Syrians look at the optimal size of family in the future.

I therefore expect a linearly diminishing figure … perhaps 2% by 2020 and 1.5% by 2030.

Remember that Syria’s population should not be growing through inbound immigration like other countries such as the United States which are popular destinations for immigration.

To conclude, I would suggest that the real numbers will not be as dramatic but are nevertheless worth looking into and planning for.

July 1st, 2009, 9:43 pm


Joshua said:

Alex, I agree that Syria’s population growth is beginning to decline and will probably continue to do so as the survival rate of children rises and people internalize it. My wife’s family is a perfect example. Her grandmother married at 13 and had 10 children. Her mother married at 15 and had 4 children. The average number of children of the four is two. So in three generations we have witnessed a decline from 10 to two.

Certainly, we can argue that my wife’s family is not typical because it is more educated and more successful than the average Syrian family. The grandmother is illiterate but the average degree held by the youngest generation is a master’s, but many of my wife’s cousins are having less children. Most are having 2 or 3. Some have 4, but very few have more than 4.

Many Syrian families have more than 4, but few upper-income families have more than 4. This will become the norm even for lower-income families in the decades ahead. That is the experience of most developing countries.The fall in fertility rates lags behind improvements in public health, rise in marriage age, rise in education, and rise in GDP in all countries, but not by much.

see this chart of declining world fertility rates.
Syria will follow a similar path

July 1st, 2009, 10:05 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Ehsani,you are right in predicting a dangerous future for Syria,as population increase,the people will have less wealth on average,they end up fighting each other more,the problem is worse in Iraq,and Egypt,it is not limited to Syria,my grandfather had five boys and five girls,the five boys , all togather, has eight boys,those eight boys has only two boys,they are in their 30s but has no kids,they live in USA,the point I am saying is that you can not take one example (Joshua family)and generalize.

July 1st, 2009, 11:02 pm


Joshua said:

Dear Majedkhaldoun, I in no way want to suggest that Syria does not have a big problem in its run away population growth. The unconstrained growth will undermine what income increases Syria hopes for through GDP growth. But there is little likelihood that the Syrian population will continue to grow at the rate it has over the past 20 years.
Tell those boys to start producing!!

July 2nd, 2009, 12:04 am


norman said:

I actually want to disagree on the risk of a rejuvenated Syria with young people , Syria needs new generation who is better Educated and more computer savvy , the young Syrians might be Syria’s best kept secret weapon and asset , the future of Syria will be built on the back of these educated Syrians ,

If we look at other countries we can see that Russia and Japan and probably most western Europe are suffering from aging population that can not support their societies , so they seek forign workers with all the problems associated with that , in the US social security will run out of money because of aging population and lack supporting younger workers ,

So , most the time things will work themselves out and people will stop having more children when they find how hard to raise them and send them to school,

To me personally I am the proud father of 4 children and i wish God would have given me more but that was not to be .

I try to tell people that they will not be able to get social security benefit if they do not have at least 3 or 4 children to support them through payment of social security.

I want to add that the family is more stable with more children like a table 3 legs are better than 2 and 4 legs are better than 3 to keep the table stable.did i say that i have married for 24 years strong,

We should also remember that having more children will make easier for the children to take care of their elderly parents ,The responsibility is shared with more children , especially in a country like Syria where children take care of their parents as the government does not provide good services to that age group.

And that is my take .

July 2nd, 2009, 12:56 am


love you alex said:

My friend is an obstetrician who works at government run clinic in the suburb of Damascus. He recently pointed out that birth rate is declining and more and more women are seeking birth control

July 2nd, 2009, 1:51 am


EHSANI2 said:


This link highlights how my assumption of 50% labor participation is not off the mark. Adult Female participation rate is 20.9% while that of men is 78.3 making the average 50% (rounded off).

As for the population increase the same link has growth at 2.5% and not 2.7% as I assumed in the article (different source). Were one to use a base of 19.9 million in 2007 and 2.5%, we end up with a population of 57,625,104 in 2050 versus 68,567,138 per the table above.

One may decide to take comfort in the fact that the growth rate is/will decline going forward, so why the worry?

I think that this would be a mistake.

Arab societies have characteristics that are different than OECD countries as religion plays a much bigger role. Relying on how growth rates declined in Europe as incomes grew may not work as smoothly in our region. Making long term forecasts with any certainty is a futile exercise when it comes to population trends.

The link below ought to make this point clear for those interested:


Finally, there is no disputing the number of jobs that need to be created regardless of what growth the population ends up with. Women are sure to increase their participation from the current paltry level of 20.9%

July 2nd, 2009, 2:55 am


Joshua said:

Ehsani, Thanks for the great links to the UN articles. Excellent.

July 2nd, 2009, 3:25 am


love you alex said:

Ehsani rules! On finance and economic there is no better analysis on syria out there.

July 2nd, 2009, 1:42 pm


Natalie Loopbaanadvies said:

If Syrian families continue to have only a maximum of 4 children, then the population would not dramatically increase. If the Syrian government would not want their unemployment rate to increase, they should definitely come up of ways to educate its people about the consequences of having a bigger family. It’s not wrong to want more children, but families should take into consideration their income, if it’s enough to suffice the needs of the whole family.

November 21st, 2010, 11:54 pm


Syria Freedom Runners said:

[…] revenue picture for the coming years.  And like all underdeveloped countries that have seen their populations explode over the past generation, the government scratches its head when asked how the nation’s economy […]

July 5th, 2011, 5:42 pm


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