Iran: Dilemmas of Dual Containment

By Anthony H. Cordesman; Ahmed S. Hashim | Go to book overview

4
Demographics and
Ethnic Pressures

The current trends in Iran's politics and internal security efforts may provide the most important indications of the current nature of Iran's regime, and of the direction it may take in the future. There are, however, other factors that are likely to play a major role in shaping Iran's stability and its relations with its neighbors. These include population pressures, ethnic divisions, and the longer term trends in Iran's ability to exploit its oil and gas resources.


Population Growth

Regardless of the nature of Iran's ruling elite, Iran's population growth will be a demographic time-bomb. Iran's population has already risen from 37 million people in 1979 to over 64 million in 1995--an increase of nearly 30 million people. This increase in population has been coupled with massive rural migration to the cities, putting a further strain on Iran's deteriorating infrastructure, including housing and educational facilities. Roughly 45% of Iran's population is now 14 years of age or younger, and Iran has 3.2 million men and 3.0 million women between the ages of 18 and 22. To illustrate the rate of growth Iran must deal with, it has 3.8 million male and 3.7 million female students in the age group between 13 and 17. 150

Iran must deal with a huge population of young job seekers and consumers whose material needs are not being satisfied. This group is steadily entering the job market and adding to the ranks of the unemployed in a stagnant economy. As Charts Eight, Nine, and Ten illustrate, a combination of demographic problems, revolution, war, and economic mismanagement have severely limited Iran's per capita wealth. While these charts show that there are definitional differences in estimates of Iran's population growth and per capita income, there are few differences in the estimate of overall trends. It is painfully clear that Iran's per capita

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