Population does not merely represent numbers and statistics of a nation, but rather it is an integral element to the formation of a state and its major driving force. Population is a dynamic power that is essentially linked to the social, economic and human development of the country. Lebanon is a distinctive country in its population and distinctive features.
The Population of Lebanon is estimated to be 4,131,583 (July 2013 est.), and ranks according to the CIA statistics as number 126 in comparison with the world. The Lebanese are divided across two lines, religious and ethnic. The ethnic division reads 95% Arabs, Armenian 4%, other 1%. It is worth noting that there is no accurate and comprehensive population census, however the estimates of the religion distribution, with 17 recognized religious sects, is constituted of 65.47 % Muslims (Shia, Sunni, Druze, Isma’ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 34.35% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Coptic, Protestant).
Lebanon has a wide youth base, with an almost equal distribution between males and females (see figure). What also characterize Lebanon are its urban growth process, 0.9 % annual growth rate, and a concentration of 87% from the total population. Lebanon is, however, witnessing a -0.04% growth rate, with 40% of male of 20% of female university graduates emigrating within 5 years of graduation and a fertility rate of 1.58 in 2005-2010 (less than the internationally recognized replacement level of 2.2). What is significant about these numbers is that they tend to indicate a lack of confidence in the country and a potential threat to future investment opportunities. In futuristic terms, the Lebanese economy will be threatened by the aging population that is retiring and creating a huge burden of social benefits, while on the other hand, Lebanon is witnessing a diminishing youth population.
With regard to health, Lebanon witnesses a life expectancy at birth of 75 years and ranks number 94 in the world. The Health expenditure in Lebanon represents 7 % of the GDP with a 3.54 physician to every 1000 individual. In this respect Lebanon ranks number 81 to the world. All Lebanese have access to drinking water with improved access to sanitation facilities covering up to 98% of the population. The education expenditures constitute 1.7 % of the GDP and literacy reaching 87% of the population. Significantly Lebanon’s women literacy rates reach 82.2% higher than almost all the rates present in the Arab world.
These numbers are notable and provide us with various indications. However, when put in the context of linking population to development, their essence can be interpreted to generate the right policies and programs suitable for Lebanon’s prosperity and long term progress.
By Diala AlMasri, an intern at the World Youth Alliance Middle East.