The Arab world continues to be hurt as its best and brightest university-educated men emigrate to Western Europe and the
U.S. analysts said the brain drain, combined with a rising unemployment
rate among young Arabs, threatens the stability of the Middle East. The high
emigration rate of young Arabs also creates ghettos of frustrated Muslims in
the West that serve as pools for Al Qaida recruitment, Middle East Newsline reported.
The issue was discussed at a seminar on March 3 hosted by the
Washington-based Population Resource Center and several members of Congress.
They included Rep. Danny Davis, an Illinois Democrat, Rep. Jim Greenwood, a
Pennsylvania Republican and Mark Steven Kirk, an Illinois Republican.
Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Western countries
are concerned by the high Arab birth rate and rising unemployment among
young Muslims both in West and in the Middle East. He told the seminar that
more than 60 percent of Saudi Arabia's population is under 30 years of age.
In Egypt, 27 percent of the population was in the 15-to-30-year-old
range in 2000. Alterman termed this an age group likely to become "angry and
Another speaker, Brian Nichiporuk of the Rand Corp., said the
demographic trend in the Middle East has raised security concerns in the
West. Nichiporuk said Al Qaida has tapped into the pools of young Middle
Eastern emigrants in Europe who gravitate toward well-financed and organized
Nichiporuk said several Middle East regimes encourage emigration of
young Muslims. He said these regimes prefer to export extremists and Muslim
ideology rather than deal with them at home.
The high population growth rate, estimated at 3.7 percent for the Middle
East and North Africa has repressed the gross domestic product growth rate
in the Middle East. Nichiporuk said this has reduced entitlements in the
oil-rich Gulf countries, with the biggest impact on such minorities such as
Copts in Egypt and Christians in the Palestinian Authority.
Alterman said the rate of youth unemployment is double that of adults in
most of the region. He said this makes what he termed "the dependency
ratio" Ñ the ratio of the dependent age population of 0-14 years and
65-plus to the working age population of 15-64 Ñ the highest in the world.
Woman and youngsters largely do not work in the Middle East.
Young Muslims from the Middle East often delay marriage and emigrate to
Europe, Alterman said. He said the result has been a brain drain and the
creation of "ethnic ghettos" in many European cities. He said more than 50
percent of Arab and African students abroad don't return home after their
studies and some 54 percent of doctors and 26 percent of engineers leave the
Middle East and Africa permanently.
The United States was called on to help Arab regimes create a middle
class and provide courses in familiy planning and female literacy. Speakers
called on Saudi Arabia to increase technical training to young students.