Arab Youth

In the ongoing unrest in the Arab world, a significant portion of the protesters are young people — many of whom are disillusioned with poor economic prospects, not to mention a lack of basic political freedoms. We wonder: Which Arab country has the biggest share of its population that is under age 25?

A. Tunisia
B. Egypt
C. Iraq
D. Yemen

A. Tunisia is not correct.

At 42%, Tunisia, the country that was the origin of the recent wave of popular unrest, actually has a lower share of under-25-year-olds than most other Arab countries. For example, it is lower than in neighboring Algeria (48%) and Libya (47%), where protests have also broken out.

Arab countries with considerably older populations include the United Arab Emirates which, at 31%, has the lowest share of under-25s in the Arab world, and Qatar (34%). These low figures are due to the high numbers of older, foreign-born migrant workers living there.

B. Egypt is not correct.

In Egypt, the geographical heart of the Arab world and the most populous Arab country, 52% of the population is under 25 years old, according to 2010 estimates by the UN Population Division.

Other Arab countries where the young people's share of the total population is similar include Saudi Arabia (51%), Jordan (54%) and Syria (55%).

Large populations of young people give rise to tremendous economic pressures, as more and more new jobs are required each year to accommodate the growing labor force. Such economic pressures were a key catalyst of the recent protests in Egypt.

C. Iraq is not correct.

Under-25-year-olds in Iraq are estimated to account for a staggering 61% of the total population. That makes it a very youthful nation even relative to other Arab countries. Notably, Iraqis have a younger population than their Persian neighbor to the east, Iran, where 46% of the population is under 25 years old.

Globally, 45% of the population is under 25, which means that most Arab countries have populations that are younger than average. By comparison, the under-25s comprise 37% of the population in China, 34% in the United States and 28% in Europe. In Japan, which faces an aging crisis, a mere 23% of the population is under 25.

D. Yemen is correct.

The share of under-25-year-olds in Yemen, at 65%, is the highest in the Arab world. Perhaps not coincidentally, other Arab League countries with similarly high proportions of young people are also fairly volatile politically. In both the Palestinian Territories and Somalia, the under-25s' share is 64%.

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