The original version of this article, by Farzaneh Roudi-Fahimi, Shereen El Feki, and Tyjen Tsai, appeared at the Population Reference Bureau.
Egyptians know some dates by heart: July 26, 1952, marks the overthrow of Egypt’s last monarch; October 6, 1973, is the date of the country’s attack to reclaim the Sinai Peninsula. Now another date can be added to that list: January 25, 2011, the first day of anti-government protests that led to President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation 18 days later. Mubarak ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years, during which the country’s population grew by 90 percent – from 45 million to 85 million according to UN estimates, despite concerted government campaigns to slow population growth. The demographic strength of Egypt is undeniable, not just in absolute numbers but in its age distribution. Egypt is experiencing a “youth bulge
:” One in five Egyptians is between ages 15 and 24
, and one-half of the population is below age 25 (see figure above), a powerful engine of renewal for the country.
Youth as the Drivers of Change
Egyptians of all ages and walks of life participated in the protests, unified in aspirations and demands including political freedom, better wages, and better working conditions. But it was the astonishing numbers of young people participating in demonstrations that gave the uprising its momentum, and were key to sustaining it, as hundreds of thousands gathered in Tahrir (Liberation) Square in Cairo and other cities across the country. Egypt’s youth are the faces behind this leaderless revolution; the revolt, in large part, was spurred by their finesse in using social media to organize and make their voices heard.
Young people arguably have the most at stake in the outcome of this revolution. The results have immediate impact and future implications in how they construct their lives. Recent studies show the frustrations young Egyptians feel at the stagnancy of their lives. They are a generation waiting for better access to quality education, secure employment, and the financial stability necessary to get married and start their own families.
Continue reading at the Population Reference Bureau.
Sources: UN Population Division.
Image Credit: Population pyramid from PRB, data from the UN Population Division.