Syria Population and Economic Conditions

By | December 17, 2021


The dominant ethnic and cultural group is the Arab one (86.2%); among the minorities, the most numerous stock is that of the Kurds (7.3%), settled in the north-eastern area of ​​the country, followed by the Armenians (2.7%), settled mainly in the cities. The annual growth rate of the population is high (2.1% in 2009), although steadily decreasing compared to past decades (4.4% in the 1980s and 3.4% in the 1990s). The migratory flow towards the industrialized European countries, the Arab oil-producing countries and the American continent is remarkable, even if more contained than in the past. The urban population is constantly growing, reaching 54% of the total in 2008. The demographic distribution is decidedly unbalanced: in Damascus (whose agglomeration in 2006 hosted 2,875,000 residents), to the large oases, the irrigation basins of the internal slope of the reliefs of the coastal region and of the Euphrates valley are contrasted by a high percentage of completely uninhabited territories or populated only by nomads. In addition to the capital, other important centers are Aleppo, Laodicea and Homs. ● Besides Arabic, the official language, Kurdish and Armenian are widespread, spoken by their respective minorities, while the ancient Aramaic language is now used only in a few villages. A largely prevalent religion is Sunni Islam (practiced by 74% of the population), flanked by the Islamic sects of the Druze (3%) and the Shiite rite of the Alawites (12%); among the non-Islamic minorities, Christians (5.5% in total, including Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, Armenian Catholics, Nestorians, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Jacobites, Maronites), and small groups of Jews. For Syria political system, please check equzhou.

Economic conditions

The Syrian economy is heavily conditioned on the one hand by the difficult environmental conditions, on the other by the political instability of the Middle East region and by the ongoing tension with Israel, which has led military spending to absorb a large part of the national budget. With the coming to power of the Ba‛th party (1963), Syria set up a statist-type economic program, characterized by five-year development plans and the nationalization of the main productive sectors. In the 1970s, with President H. Assad, there was an initial opening to private initiative and foreign investment, an opening that was accentuated after the collapse of the USSR, the country’s main economic partner. Between the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, the Syria carried out a progressive dismantling of the planned economy, translated into the privatization of state-owned companies, the creation of private banks, the abolition of some customs barriers. In March 2009, the Damascus Stock Exchange, the first Syrian stock exchange, became operational.

● The primary sector (which in 2008 employed 19.2% of the active population and contributed 18.5% to GDP) represents an important voice of the country’s economy. Main crops are vegetables, citrus fruits, olives and tobacco in the coastal plain, cotton and sugar beet in the Oronte valley, cereals (barley and wheat) in the plain of al-Jazirah. The most common breeding is the sheep one. Considerable impetus to the development of agriculture was given by the large irrigation projects carried out between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s: enhancement of the Orontes valley and the Euphrates and Khabur valleys, construction of the Ṭabqa dam, on the Euphrates river, which gave rise to Lake al-Asad, the most important water reserve in Syria. However, the lack of water remains a recurring problem, also due to an excessive exploitation of the groundwater by means of motor pumps, a practice that has produced serious phenomena of soil salinization.

● The extraction sector is centered on oil (Qarah Shuk, Suwaidiyya, Rumilan, Tayyem), which constitutes over 60% of exports. An oil pipeline connects the NE oil fields with Homs and the port of Baniyas, while the al-Qatif-Sayda oil pipeline passes through the southern part of the country. Other underground resources are phosphates (Homs), natural asphalt (Kafria), Palmira and Homs). The industry (14.5% of the active population and 26.9% of GDP) is based on the processing of raw materials (oil refining in Homs and Baniyas, production of chemical fertilizers in Homs) and local products (milling industry, olive oil, beer, sugar, textiles). Of great importance is the traditional craftsmanship (damask fabrics, brocades, carpets). The service sector (66.3% of the active population and 54.6% of GDP) is mainly represented by the public administration. Promising development opportunities come from tourism, which can count on the landscape attractions and on a very rich archaeological and architectural heritage. Foreign trade is heavily conditioned by the difficult political position of the Syria and by the existing tensions with countries of the Middle East area, in particular with Israel, and with the United States, which in 2003 approved the Accountability Act against Syria, which prohibits American investments in Syria and any form of export from the United States to Syria excluding drugs and food. The main commercial partners of Syria are the countries of the European Union (especially Italy, France and Germany), Saudi Arabia, Russia and China.

● The country has a good road network (97,401 km, of which however only 20% is asphalted). The railway network (2052 km) is mainly used for freight transport. The most important ports are those of Laodicea and Ṭarṭus. Airport stops in the main cities.

Syria road network