The Future of the Global Muslim Population - Pew Research Center.
Falling birth rates eventually will lead to significant shifts in the age structure of Muslim populations. While the worldwide Muslim population today is relatively young, the so-called Muslim "youth bulge" -- the high percentage of Muslims in their teens and 20s -- peaked around the year 2000 and is now declining. (See the Age Structure section of the full report for more details.) In 1990, more than two-thirds of the total population of Muslim-majority countries was under age 30. Today, people under age 30 make up about 60% of the population of these countries, and by 2030 they are projected to fall to about 50%.
There was a news report on the radio this morning about this study, and in light of my trip last fall to Bahrain, I found it interesting. Population statistics is not something education practitioners probably study on a regular basis, but at the policy level, I'm beginning to understand why this type of information was important. We need to be look at the bigger picture in terms of how the world will look in the next 50 years.
At the Education Project conference in Bahrain, I learned that many countries on the Arabian peninsula have large youth populations, as confirmed by this study. Because of this and the fact that oil reserves are depleting, Middle Eastern leaders are concerned about human capital and the role of education in planning for the future of their countries. I was told that Saudi Arabia, for instance, has about another 40 years of oil left and many of its citizens have benefitted financially for many generations without additional employment. Because of these circumstances, educators seemed concerned about adequately motivating and preparing students for careers; government officials also are looking for other resources to capitalize on in terms keeping their countries economically viable. From the data in this Pew report, it looks like the population explosion will taper off, but meeting the needs of a huge young population is going to be important in the immediate future. It makes me wonder, too, what the implications are for preventing extremism in the region. Will more educated, financially stable young people prevent discontent and violence?
The circumstances for which leaders in the Middle East have to prepare fascinated me; in the US, obviously we're also very concerned about school reform, but our take is a bit different due to our own history as well as economic and geographical circumstances. We seem alarmed that we're no longer at the top in a variety of categories, and remaining competitive is the mantra in education policy circles. I think this is a bit short sighted, but perhaps it's a phrase that hits home and pushes Americans into action.
Anyway, just thought I'd share this as an example of how this kind of data looked at as a way to anticipate the long range needs and directions of countries and various populations.