I was playing around with the population pyramids here:
Looking at demographics is something Economists do.
Malthus, the founder of demographics, was one of the first Economists and started the whole field. It was due to his theories about overpopulation and the inevitable collapse that Economics is called “The Dismal Science”. It is at times like this that I must agree with that name.
In general, the age pyramid is mostly expected to fall into a couple of patterns. A broad based pyramid (that actually looks like an Egyptian Pyramid) indicates a population with many children and few folks living to old age. That’s typical in poverty ridden 3rd world nations where life is fast and short (so folks have many babies in the hope one survives to be an adult). In rich nations, it tends to look like a short version of the Washington Monument. Mostly straight sides, turning in at the top. Other shapes tell you other things. The “men” side tends to lean in faster as men die younger, for example. The “baby boom” after W.W.II shows up like a bulge traveling up the Washington Monument from year to year (eventually to fade out at the top).
Other “odd things” can show up too. A plague or war can put a “waist” in the sides, for example. So I was looking at countries and thinking things like “Sub Sahara Africa is a 3rd world place in trouble” and “Northern Europe is not having enough children to support their retirement systems” and “North Africa and Turkey are having more kids than they can support if a cold time comes… so about those empty slots in Europe?…”
The various Muslim States typically (but not always) having an unsustainable birth rate that pretty much assures they will have Malthusian problems in a couple of decades… as their “too many babies” turn into “too many unemployed men and women with 4 more kids”. Then I looked at “The Gulf States”. The places where particularly strict forms of Islam exist in an Arab cultural background. I was not ready to see so strange a chart.
First, as a counter example, Yemen. It has the typical “3rd world poverty” profile:
Wide base, narrow top, smooth taper to the sides.
Then, a shape more typical of a society entering modernity where wealth and education of women leads to more contraception and a ‘transition’ toward straight sides. In this case it is a bit of a ‘waist’ shape, so may also indicate some kind of disruptive event as well. Perhaps an artifact of different birth rates during the Iran / Iraq war, or economic disruption at home.
The W.W.II “baby boom” had some of that kind of ‘bulge’ shape, though a bit more rounded. Also wars tend to put a reduction of population on the male side from those of fighting age during the war. Here the ‘wide spot’ is in the 20 to 30 year olds. So born from 1983 to 1993. From the wiki on the history of Iran:
“Khomeini served as leader of the revolution or as Supreme Leader of Iran from 1979 to his death on June 3, 1989. This era was dominated by the consolidation of the revolution into a theocratic republic under Khomeini, and by the costly and bloody war with Iraq.
The consolidation lasted until 1982–3”
So just after the Iranian revolution had the dust settle, a bunch of kids. Then things don’t look quite so disrupted later and the birth rate drops off again. Basically, when the Iraq war was a threat and Khomeini was pushing for a load of kids to send off to war, folks had a lot of kids. Once he was gone, they chose fewer. That’s a common pattern. Folks want to know a couple of kids will survive to be adults. Raise the threat to parent or children and you get more kids born as “insurance”. Provide a safe reliable life, folks have fewer kids and spend more time enjoying the free life. So not hard to explain that bulge.
What surprised me were the other Gulf States. Iraq has the “3rd world” shape like Yemen, so I won’t put it here. But lets look at the rest of the states. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain. I was completely unprepared to see this pattern.
What is the ‘deal’ with that big lump of men on one side of the pyramid? Gender at birth is a more or less random event and about 50 : 50 odds (men more by a single percent or so, as they die off more later). To get that shape, something has to be killing off the women preferentially, or a very large men-only immigration happened. It’s that kind of question that it’s just hard to let run away…
For Kuwait we would expect to see some kind of artifact from the Iraqi occupation and war. Again, we have the ‘bulge’ of men. But even bigger. Men die in battle. Sometimes women are taken as war trophy brides in some cultures, but that was not done in the Kuwait war (as the USA drove the Iraqi army out).
Or maybe it’s just a very local artifact. How about a couple further away from the conflict zone. Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
There are times I really wish I wasn’t an Economist and really wish I wasn’t compulsively curious and really wish I was happy to just watch mindless TV and trust government. I would hope it is a data error, perhaps hiding women at home and not having them counted in the census. But in ALL those countries? While not in other Islamic states? Or even in 3rd world Islamic states? (This pattern does not show up in the African Islamic countries, nor those of south east Asia). So the mind starts to imagine the worst.
It could be preferential abortion so as to have a son, or to have the ‘eldest’ be a son. (Though I don’t really believe that). It could be that the sexual surgery / mutilation of women leads to higher death rates. It could be death in childbirth (unlikely in those rich countries and not showing up in the 3rd world profiles…). Or perhaps 1/2 the population is imported male workers. Which of these things can it be?
But I end up thinking that it could be “honor killings”. Notice that the sex ratio is the same right up until just about puberty. Can we really trust that various men are not just choosing the “I accuse” rather than divorce? (Islam mandates payment of an estate to the woman in a divorce). Can we expect that when “being alone in the presence of a man” is grounds for stoning under Sharia that there isn’t some stoning going on? Yet puberty is also about the age that men go on journeys and adventures. Could there be that many?
For Qatar, a case can be made that they are male guest workers:
Natives of the Arabian Peninsula, many Qataris are descended from a number of migratory tribes that came to Qatar in the 18th century to escape the harsh conditions of the neighboring areas of Nejd and Al-Hasa. Some are descended from Omani tribes. Qatar has over 1.5 million people, the majority of whom (about 90%) live in Doha, the capital. Foreign workers with temporary residence status make up about four-fifths of the population. Most of them are South Asians, Egyptians, Palestinians, Jordanians, Iranians and Somalis. About 5,000 U.S. citizens resided there as of 2001.
At 4/5 ‘temporary workers’ you could get that kind of a sex ratio skew. (In which case it does not speak well of the life style of the ‘temporary workers’…) But at least now the worst fears are starting to fade.
A similar pattern shows up for Bahrain.
Non-nationals make up 54% of the population of Bahrain. Of those, the vast majority come from South and Southeast Asia: according to various media reports and government statistics dated between 2005-2009 roughly 290,000 Indians, 125,000 Bangladeshis, 45,000 Pakistanis, 45,000 Filipinos, and 8,000 Indonesians
I didn’t see such data for Saudi Arabia (though they do import labor). I could likely search more, but I think we’re seeing the pattern already.
For Kuwait we also see imported population:
Approximately 96% of Kuwait’s population is urbanized while 4% are nomadic or semi-nomadic. The State of Kuwait’s current population is estimated at roughly 3-3.5 million people; counting both locals and foreigners. Roughly 1 million (or nearly one third) of Kuwait’s population is local, with 2-2.5 million residents registered as foreigners/non-locals. It is estimated that one in every 3–4 people in Kuwait are of Kuwaiti citizenship.
In 2009, more than 580,000 Indian nationals lived in Kuwait making them the single largest expatriate community there. The rest of the foreign population mainly consists of Egyptians, Palestinians, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Filipino and Sri Lankan residents. Other foreigners consist of European, North American and Northeast Asian communities – but these are negligible.
The graph gives Kuwait as population 2.7 Million while this wiki entry says 3 to 3.5 Million, so something doesn’t quite line up. But the gross trends are about right. The wiki on the UAE is less clear, but does include this quote:
“Population growth in the United Arab Emirates is among the highest in world, mostly due to immigration. According to census data there was a sevenfold increase between 1975 and 2005”
A seven fold increase would be a lot of immigration.
So that’s how a dip in the demographic pool goes. Look at a chart, see a shape. Have some idea what is going on for most of them. Then something “odd” shows up. Ideas bubble. In the end, you find that there may well be honor killings and differential health impacts, but that the most likely answer is that a lot of young men are imported to provide labor.
Yet that, too, comes to tell a disturbing tale.
First off, that implies that the difference between a Yemen pattern and a Gulf pattern is mostly about money. Yemen is not rich, the Gulf is way over-rich. It implies, too, that Iraq and Iran being more isolationist and Shiia have a very different ethos about ‘imported workers’. That the ‘gap’ between them, and their neighbors, is very large. That Sunni / Shiia divide changes many things about their countries.
Then we wonder: What is life like in a country where 1/2 to 3/4 of the population are ‘temporary workers’ and many more men than women? What happens when the folks who can rule (or vote) are a small minority and the working class can be ejected if they are not subservient? How do you ‘get by’ as a woman in a country where you can not be alone in the presence of a man not a direct relative, yet the country is chock full of men not your relative?
Why are there so many folks brought in for labor? Are the locals just lazy and rich? Or just making a load of money off of industries in their country in excess of what they themselves could operate? Can that be a stable situation for long? Do these young men work for a while, then leave? Causing a constant turnover of ‘displaced foreigners’ trying to adjust? What happens if the oil slows down, or Fracking makes a new oil glut?
And, perhaps most interesting, but also most speculative: IFF that is shown to work relatively well, with citizenship, country and family disconnected from work: Can a similar “work, look, but don’t touch” program be used in Europe for places like Greece where their demographics will have them culturally cease to exist if they just allow open immigration of whole family units.
Or is the EU so structured that Greece will become Northern Libya and Western Turkey by default?
Such is the journey that starts with “Why is that bump there?”…
But at least we know it is most likely not related to women and dying. And that’s a very good thing.