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Life Expectancy and Birth Rate in Muslim Majority Countries

By Dr. Mohammed Iqtedar Husain Farooqi, New Age Islam                  

5 April 2021

Life expectancy of most of the Muslim countries has increased sharply during the last few decades. Compared to the Data of 1960 when average age in Muslim World was hardly 45, this average in 2018 was raised well above 60 years. Thirty Muslim majority courtiers have the average between 70 to 81years as reported by WHO. Eleven countries have the age between 60 to 70 years and the rest nine, mostly from Central and Western Africa,  below 60, the lowest being 53 in Somalia. Highest average age of 81 years for 2018 has been reported in Jordan ( from 54 years in 1960) followed by Bosnia, 80 (59 in 1960), Albania79 (61 in 1960), Bahrain 79 (49 in 1960),  Qatar79 ( 59 in 1960),  U. A. E. 78 (50 in 1960),  Brunei 78 (61 in 1960), Kuwait 78 ( 59 in 1960),  Tunisia 77 (41 in 1960),  Lebanon 77 (62 in 1960), Morocco 77 (47 in 1960),  Saudi Arabia 76 (44 in 1960),  Algeria 76 (45 in 1960), Oman 76 (42 in 1960)  and Syria76 (52 in 1960). Some largely populated Muslim countries also showed sizeable increase in the average age like Malaysia at 75 (59 in 1960), Turkey 74 (42 in 1960) Egypt 74 (47 in 1960),  Indonesia 73 (47 in 1960),  Iraq73 (46 in 1960), Iran 72 (46 in 1960),  Bangladesh 72 (46 in 1960),  and Pakistan 68 (46 in 1960)  All the countries coming out of Soviet Union and becoming Independent like Azerbaijan (73 years), Kazakhstan (71), Kyrgyzstan (72), Tajikistan (68), Turkmenistan (71), and Uzbekistan (74) have quite the high average age.

Higher average age in the Islamic world is the result of greater attention towards healthcare and consequently lesser infant mortality rate. It is heartening to note that average mortality rate of 200 deaths per 1000 live birth during 1950 dropped to an average of 50 deaths per thousand in 2015. Twenty seven countries recorded the average of less than 25 deaths per thousand. Lowest mortality rate drop has been recorded in Brunei where the average dropped to 4/1000 deaths in 2015 from 81/1000 in 1950.

Others countries with significant drops are UAE (6 from 181), Qatar (6 from 106), Kuwait (7 from123), Bahrain (7 from 172), Malaysia (7 from 102), Oman (7 from 211), Lebanon (8 from 68), Turkey (13 from 217), Saudi Arabia (14 from 201), Kazakhstan (14 from 110), Iran (15 from 220), Jordan (15 from 147). Unfortunately four largest Muslim countries have not been able to improve healthcare facilities to the desired level so as to check infant mortality significantly. These are Indonesia (24 from 192), Bangladesh (33 from 220), Pakistan (56 from 255) and Nigeria (73 from 200). It is important to note that that the average infant mortality rate in advanced countries, including Europe, U.S., Canada, Japan and Australia was 4/1000 in 2015 as against average of 20/1000 in 1950. World average life expectancy is 70 years.

With the present population of 1.78 billion (est. 2016), Muslims constitutes 25% of world’s population. It is also claimed that faster  growth than the Replacement Level of 2.1 fertility Rate  of Muslim population will create many problems in the Islamic World including law and order as well as the break on the efforts for economic prosperity. But recent surveys conducted by Agencies like World Bank and others give a different picture. These surveys show that rise of Muslim population is not as fast and as dramatic as it is projected, sometimes with bad intentions.

What comes out from these Surveys is that the trend of fast growth of Muslims population around the world has been checked drastically during the last three decades. Birth rate per woman has fallen appreciably among Muslim communities and, therefore, their population is not increasing as speedily as some people wrongly believe. This is largely due to the fact that literacy in Muslim world has increased and economy of many countries has improved. Greater literacy rate is directly linked with the fall of growth of population because it is the main factor for maintaining Fertility Rate to a reasonable limit.  Successful efforts for economic prosperity of common man (eradication of poverty), greater life expectancy, healthcare awareness, particularly for women (mother) and children, emancipation (empowerment) of women, are the other major causes for the fall of the birth rate in Muslim societies throughout the world.

As far as Fertility Rate (Births per Woman) in Islamic World is concerned, barring few poor countries of  Africa, most Muslim countries have shown drastic drop in birth rates per woman from 5 to 8 births in 1960 to 1.7 to 4 births in 2018 (Fertility rate-The World Factbook).

Fifteen Muslim countries have been reported to have the fertility (birth rate per women) of 2.1 (world replacement Level) or less. Important amongst them are Iran (1.6 from 6.9 in 1960), U.A.E. (1.7 from 6.9 in 1960), Kuwait (1.9 from 7.2), Bahrain (1.9), Turkey (2.0), Bangladesh (2.0) and Tunisia (2.1). Another fifteen Muslim countries have the range of 2.2 to 3.2 of fertility. Important amongst them being Uzbekistan (2.2 from 6.7 in 1960 ), Indonesia (2.3 from 5.7 ), Saudi Arabia (2.4 from 7.2 ), Morocco (2.4), Kazakhstan (2.5), Algeria (2.6), Turkmenistan (2.7), Egypt (3.1) and Tajikistan (3.2). Six countries have the fertility between 3.3 (Pakistan) to 4.2 (Iraq) and the rest 14 countries have the fertility between 4.3 (Sierra Leone) to 7.1 (Niger).(

Muslim countries with very high rates of fertility are from Africa, mainly because of low literacy and per capita incomes. For instances Niger with 7.1 children per women (highest in the world) has per capita income of 407 $ and 15% literacy.  Similar are the cases of Somalia (Fertility, 6.1: Lit., 39%; Per capita Income), Mali (Fertility, 5.9; Lit, 31% : Per capita income, 827$), Chad, Burkina Faso,  Guinea etc.. Other African Muslim countries like Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Morocco have fairly good records in all the parameters of fertility rates (2.2 to 3.1),  literacy (67 to 90%) and per capita income (3 thousand to 8 thousand $). International Agencies need to help poor African countries in their struggle to improve their economic strength. Europe has less than 1.9 fertility rates mainly because of their high per capita GDP and 100 % literacy. Global fertility rate in 2018 is reported to be 2.5; 0.4 more than the replacement level.

There is a strong possibility that with the increase in education standard, fertility declining trend will continue in the Muslim world and the coming decade will see the average replacement level reach to the desired limit of 2.1. All speculations about Muslim population “EXPLOSION” theory would fail and proved to be absolutely false.

A report in New York Times (Jan, 27, 2011) under the heading “Forecast Sees Muslim Population Levelling”, by Laurie Goodsteinjan states that the growth of Muslim population “ will level off with more Muslim women getting educations and jobs, people migrating to cities, and living standards improving”. He adds “the birth-rate in majority-Muslim countries will come to more closely resemble the pattern in other nations”. In his opinion, “Predictions that that Europe will become a majority-Muslim “Eurabia” are unfounded”.

The fact is that Fertility rate of many rich and educationally sound Muslim countries like Iran, Malaysia, Turkey, and UAE etc. already resemble that of many European countries. But poor and educationally backward African Muslim and non-Muslim countries have still high rates of birth. Disputing the report that world population will reach to 10.1 billion in 2100, Indian economist Sanjeev Sanyal claims that birth rates worldwide will fall below replacement rates in the 2020s. According to his projections, population growth will be only sustained till the 2040s by rising longevity, but will peak below 9 billion by 2050. (Wikipedia).


This Article is one of the Chapters from the book entitled MUSLIM SOCIETIES – RISE & FALL -Revival Efforts by Dr. M. I.H. Farooqi, 2nd Ed. 2020)

Dr. M.I.H. Farooqi  : Scientist/Deputy Director (Retired), National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow (Govt. of India),  Member of UNESCO Panel on Quranic Botanic Gardens, Member State Biodiversity Board & Author of Plants Of The Quran, Medicinal Plants In The Traditions Of Prophet Muhammad, Animals Mentioned In The Quran & Dictionary Of Flora & Fauna Of Quran And Sunnah                                                           


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