Anyone who will be older than 45 in the year 2050 has already been born. This means that demographers can do nearly definitive projections about population trends until then. What they're telling us is that a lot of the world's little ones are coming up in Muslim households and societies.
Those Muslim five-year-olds better get serious quick. Look what they're facing.
The Arab world's population will likely grow by 114 percent to nearly 700 million in the next four decades. Its median age is now 22, with a huge youth bulge of nearly 32 percent. That's the portion that 15 to 24 year olds make up of a region's adult (IS and older) population.
Fertility rate, measured by replacement of two parents (so 2 means no growth), is falling in the Muslim world. But by comparison-especially with Europe and Russia-it remains high. The Arab world's fertility rate is between 4 and 6.5 in Palestine, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Iraq. That's triple growth in those countries on our 2050 timeline. It's between 3 and 4 in Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Positive increase. But that trend diminishes to very little growth, if any, across North Africa, through Lebanon, and down into the Gulf states (between 2 and 3).
In the rest of the Muslim world, the fertility rate hovers at 3, with glaring exceptions like Afghanistan, a whopping 7.5, and Pakistan at 4. Iran, though you can't tell it yet because of a previous boom that's going to ricochet loudly after a decade, is experiencing the world's single greatest fertility plunge in the history of keeping such demographics. By contrast, Turkey, one of the oldest "modern" Muslim countries, has an older median age of 27, while its fertility rate has already fallen to near replacement levels (no increase). Muslim Albania is the only country in Eastern Europe with a population rate still above replacement, at 2.3.
Equally important is the fact that regional life expectancies in the Muslim world are rising. Among Arabs, it has climbed from 42 to 67 years old and is projected to reach nearly 77 by 2050. Lots of parents and grandparents to take care of.
But there won't be a lot of resources to do it with. The economies of most Muslim countries (Malaysia's been an exception) are shot. Arab youth, for instance, face some of the world's highest unemployment rates, 20 percent region wide: About 28 percent in Jordan, 31 percent in Tunisia, 39 percent in Palestine, 43 percent in Algeria. In a number of Muslim countries, elevated unemployment rates parallel an increase in education. Egypt's most jobless youth are its college graduates.
This means the age at which Muslim men marry is also rising. Fully two out of every five young males in the Muslim world are not married and not working.
But while fertility rates will fall now steadily in the Muslim world for the next 40 years, there will be a massive mini-boom, what they call an echo, in the 2020s. Youth populations of the currently low-fertility countries of North Africa, Central Asia, and Iran will abruptly mushroom: Morocco at 21%. Algeria 32%. Libya 29%. Tunisia 12%. Central Asia's Sums at a collective 16%. And Iran at 30%.
Add to this the high baby production of the other Muslim regions already mentioned, and that's a lot of youth capital- with all the commensurate aspirations and appetites of the young. And since the growth rates of religious families tend to be much higher than their more worldly peers, demographers expect the margin of the devout to tip the balance against the less religious all over the world. And where Muslims are in multi-ethnic societies (all over the West, for instance) or land disputes, their growth differential will tend to significantly outpace their rivals.
A glance at the leading global societies today-almost all in the West-shows an uncanny inverse of the population trends in the Muslim world. Population declines, in not a few countries precipitous, are now inevitable throughout Europe. Interestingly, America will hold a steady demographic pattern through 2050. Though its growth will not match that of other parts of the world, its proportions, both in people and wealth, will grow enormously in comparison to the rest of the West. This relative increase is also reflected in the percentage of native English speakers in the West, which will leap to more than half.
This means that American influence and responsibilities, if these projections hold, will expand considerably in the West and the world. And if current chauvinistic policies and militaristic attitudes prevail-as reflected in The Graying of the Great Powers: Demography and Geopolitics in the 21st Century, published by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, from which most of these statistics have been taken-it means come the 2020s, it will be a time of maximum instability in the world-with Muslims, East and West, smack in the middle.
I hope our Muslim youth in America and abroad are paying attention. They have so much of divine revelation, of prophetic manners, and political courage to learn and to teach in such a short time, in order to avert the machinations of the mutrafeeha, the power elite, here and there.
What is most compelling about the year 2050 is that most of us won't be here any longer to see the outcome. If our Muslim youth fail their task of clear conveyance of this message, whose very name is Peace, if they do not understand enough of Islam to fulfill the Qur'anic command to call to a common word, many of them and their global peers won't be around either.
Article provided by Al Jumuah Magazine, a monthly Muslim lifestyle publication, which addresses the religious concerns of Muslim families across the world.
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