Middle East Studies

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Arab Political Demography

Population Growth, Labor Migration and Natalist Policies
Revised and Expanded Third Edition

Onn Winckler is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Middle Eastern History at the University of Haifa. He is the author of Demographic Developments and Population Policies in Ba'thist Syria, and co-editor of Modern Syria, as well as the author of a book on Jordanian demographic developments.

From a review of the second edition: "This volume makes a valuable contribution to the Arab population policy literature by tracing the evolution of population policies in the Arab countries and by describing the factors that led to changes in these policies." Studies in Family Planning

The Arab Spring exposed the fundamental weakness of the non-oil Arab economies, namely, the imbalance between population growth and the labor market, resulting in the emergence of structural unemployment among young adults. By the early 2000s these economies faced impossible circumstances: in order to achieve substantial economic growth they had to reduce subsidies and increase privatization – economic policies that led to a deterioration of the living standards of the vast majority of the population. The Arab Spring created a new category in the region, that of "failed Arab state", characterized by a fallen "old regime" without a competent new regime to replace it. Civil wars resulted, along lines of religious or ethnic division, as in Syria ('Alawites against Sunnis), Iraq (Shi'is against Sunnis and Kurds against Arabs) and in Yemen (Shi'is against Sunnis). Regional divisions accounted for the civil war in Libya. The other side of the "new Arab map" is the Arabian Gulf oil states which continue to function as before, both politically and socioeconomically.

Chapter 1 places Arab countries in the global demographic picture. Chapter 2 examines the quantity of the demographic records of Arab countries. Chapter 3 deals with patterns of population growth of Arab countries. Chapter 4 analyzes the emergence of employment pressure. Chapter 5 discusses intra-Arab labor migration. Chapter 6 analyzes natalist policies. The Concluding Chapter examines the "demographic fingerprint" of the Arab Spring which not only was the "core" of the revolution, but also its main consequence in the form of drawing the new political map of the Arab region according to an ethno-religious composition.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-759-9
Hardback Price: £110.00 / $140.00
Release Date: May 2017
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-760-5
Paperback Price: £55.00 / $75.00
Release Date: May 2017
Page Extent / Format: 352 pp. / 246 x 171 mm
Illustrated: Yes


List of Tables, Figures, Charts and Boxes
Preface & Acknowledgements
List of Abbreviations

Introduction: The Methodological Framework of Political Demography

Chapter 1: Global Demographic History
1. Global Population Growth: A Historical Perspective
2. The Demographic Transition Theory
3. The Various Global Demographic Patterns
4. Summary and Conclusions: A New Demographic Transition?

Chapter 2: Sources for Demographic Research of the Arab States

1. A Historic Overview of Demographic Records in the Arab Region
2. The Division of the Arab States according to the Quality of the Demographic Records
3. The Lacuna of Accurate Official Employment Data
4. The Impact of the Arab Spring on the Demographic Records on the Arab Countries
5. Summary and Conclusions

Chapter 3: Arab Population Growth 
1. The Historical Dimension of the Arab Population Growth
2. The Causes for the Rapid Population Growth of the Arab Countries
3. Arab Fertility Decline since the mid-1980s
4. The Impact of the Arab Spring: The Reversal of the Fertility Patterns 
5. The Factor of Religion in Fertility Differentials
6. The Revolution in Mortality Rates and its Consequences
7. Summary and Conclusions

Chapter 4: The “Victory” of Numbers: The Emergence of Structural Unemployment
1. Introduction
2. The “Heart” of the “Low Income Trap”: Low Labor Force Participation Rates
3. The Implications of the Young Age Pyramid for Future Employment Demands
4. Employment Trends in the Arab Countries in Retrospect
5. Summary and Conclusions

Chapter 5: The Intra-Arab Labor Migration: Scale, Causes and Consequences
1. Introduction: Modern International Labor Migration Patterns
2. The Socioeconomic Structure of the Arabian Gulf Prior to the “Oil Era”
3. The GCC States’ Strategy for Development following the “Oil Boom”
4. The Inevitable Result: Rapid Growth of Foreign Labor
5. The Uniqueness of the GCC Labor Migration Pattern
6. The GCC Labor and Immigration Policies: From Encouragement through Limitation to
7. Evaluating the GCC Labor Immigration and Employment Policies
8. The Ethno-Religious Composition of the GCC Foreign Labor 
9. The Labor Emigration Policies of the Arab Labor-Exporting Countries
10. Summary and Conclusions

Chapter 6: Between Pro-Natalism and Anti-Natalism in the Arab Countries
1.  The Attitude toward Population Growth in Historical Perspective
2. What is a “Population Policy”?
3. A Historical Examination of the Natalist Policies of the Arab Countries in Global Perspective
4. Evaluation of the Family Planning Programs in the Arab Countries
5. “Direct” or “Indirect”? The Contribution of Family Planning to Fertility Decline
6. Summary and Conclusions

Summary and Conclusions: The Road to the “Arab Demographic Winter”


Since the 1970s, but particularly with the end of the bonanza “oil decade” in 1983, says Winckler, the demographic problem, or demographic challenge, has become the most acute socioeconomic problem for an increasing number on non-oil Arab countries. He examines the connection between demography and politics in the Arab countries from three major perspectives: internal political dimensions, inter-Arab political dimensions, and the nature of relationships between the Arab and the developed Western countries.

Reviewed by Valleria Cetorelli, Demographic and Social Statistics Section, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, in The Middle East Journal, Vol. 72, No. 2.

Reviewed in the June 2018 issue of the Journal of Economic Literature (Volume 56, no. 2) and in the American Economic Association's electronic publications: e-JEL, JEL on CD, and EconLit.

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