Population dynamics, including growth distribution rates, age structure, fertility and mortality, migration and more, influence every aspect of human, social and economic development. Countries need to be able to gather information about population, to track and analyze trends in order to create and manage sound policies and generate the political will to appropriately address both current and future population needs. UNFPA assists countries in every aspect of population and development, as needed, from developing capacity in data collection and analysis to participating in national, regional and global policy dialogue to supporting demonstrative programmes for purposes of upscaling.
Egypt's Demographic Transition
Egypt's population, estimated at three million when Napoleon invaded the country in 1798, has increased at varying rates. The population grew gradually and steadily throughout the 19th Century, doubling in size over the course of 80 years. Beginning in the 1880s, the growth rate accelerated and the population increased more than 600 percent in 100 years.
The growth rate was especially high after World War II. In 1947, the population census indicated that Egypt's population was 19 million. It then jumped to 26 million in 1960 at an annual rate of growth of 2.34 percent during the period 1947-1960. The census in 1976 revealed that the population had ballooned to 36.6 million. After 1976, the population grew at an annual rate of 2.8 percent and in 1986 reached a total of 47.7 million, and then 58.8 million in 1996, an annual growth rate of 2.1 percent during the period 1986-1996. Nowadays, Egypt has a population of about 80 million inhabitants living on 6 percent of its land area.
Hence, population issues are of the highest priority to the Government of Egypt. In 2008, Egypt held a large National Population Conference that was attended by the President, H.E. Mr. Hosni Mubarak. The Conference brought together different ministries, parliamentarians and development partners to create a multi-sectoral dialogue and further advance population policies in Egypt to further reinforce the Government’s commitment to population issues. In 2009, a new ministry was established, the Ministry of State for Family and Population, to handle the portfolio of population and development issues.
Egypt has made significant improvements in overall socio-economic development. Over the last two decades, Egypt has seen its GDP grow, with an average of 7 percent in the last three years, literacy rates rise, and has experienced improvements in health, education, sanitation and other social services. Despite these gains, large disparities in development exist between urban and rural areas, Upper and Lower Egypt and between men and women, and within governorates and cities.
Nearly 40 percent of all investments are concentrated in the Cairo Governorate. Public expenditure on social services remains relatively low. In 2005, 5.1 percent of GDP was spent on education and 1.8 percent on the health sector. Poverty still constitutes a major challenge, where about 43 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day. About 30 percent of the workforce is engaged in seasonal, irregular, or temporary employment.
In addition, the global financial crisis has adversely affected last year’s GDP growth rate. The trend in population growth over the last few years indicates that Egypt has reached a plateau. This plateau can be attributed to many factors, including: the slowing down of fertility decline (total fertility rates (TFR) at 3.0); high adolescent fertility rate; unmet need is still around 10 percent; contraceptive discontinuation rate during the first 12 months is about 30 percent; and the gap between urban TFR (2.7) vs. rural (3.4) is still wide.
UNFPA Egypt works with the Government, focusing on ensuring the access of decision makers to evidence-based population information and an in-depth knowledge of the population dynamics, to guide the decision-making process. UNFPA supports the Government in ensuring that national policies address the goals and targets of the ICPD and MDGs. UNFPA also supports institutional capacity building in communicating information and data accurately in order to promote dialogue.
To attain these goals, UNFPA Egypt supports the following:
- The Information and Decision Support Center in the production of the annual population report, to be utilized in policy dialogue, which highlights emerging issues in the country. In 2008, the report discussed the Food Crisis and Population Dynamics and the 2009 the report focused on ICPD@15: achievements and challenges.
- The development and updating of a national population database that is user-friendly and accessible to policy and decision makers at the national, regional and local levels, through capacity building at the governorate level on data collection, utilization and monitoring and evaluation of progress on population indicators, and establishing a cadre of media personnel to advocate and disseminate accurate information on population issues according to national policy.
- The National Council for Women in developing capacities in gender planning and monitoring and evaluation at the local, regional and national levels. Twenty-seven local gender plans are monitored, in order to provide evidence of the progress achieved.
As Egypt approaches the demographic window of opportunity
, the issues of population and development and their interlinkages become increasingly important for the country. UNFPA Egypt, through all of its programmes, will continue to support sustainable development for Egypt.