Tuesday, September 15, 2009

On Tunisia's continuing demographic transition

I`d like to point our readers to an interesting article on Tunisia's changing demographics. From Tunisia's GlobalNet comes the article "La Tunisie se féminise, mais le célibat est mixte" ("Tunisia feminizes, but celibacy remains complex"). My (hopefully not too imperfect) translation of some of the most salient points is below.

Tunisia had in mid-May 2008 a population of 10314.5 thousand versus 10208.9 thousand in 2007, an increase of 1.03%, according to the preliminary results of national survey on population and employment in 2008 of the National Institute of Statistics. This survey confirmed the excess of women already observed in 2007, with 5152.9 thousand men and 5161.6 thousand women, a net female predominance of 8700.

The proportion of men in Tunisia has continued to decline in recent decades: 51.1% in 1966, 50.5% in 1994, 50.1% in 2004, and 50.0% in 2006. This is explained by the effects of migration flows affecting mainly men, the significant decline in the rate of female infant mortality, as the growing life expectancy of women. 27 400 migrants have left Tunisia between 2007 and 2008, while 10 500 immigrants have settled in our lands. The sex ratio at birth remains biased towards boys: 106 to 108 boys are born per 100 girls.

Tunisia is about to follow the same path as Europe with an aging population, especially since the proportion of people aged 60 years or older has risen, from 9.3% in 2004 to 9.7% in 2008.

[. . .]

At the moment, demographers argue that our country is undergoing a "golden age", with a significant majority of people aged 15-59 years. The working-age population has recorded a relatively significant increase (65.9% in 2008 against 64.4% in 2004).

The birth rate has affected because of the family planning policy is now recovering. The proportion of children under 5 years has stabilized over the period 2004/2008 to around 8.0%. This is explained by the increasing number of women of childbearing age, and number of births a year to year, with about 3,000 more babies born each year, despite the stabilization of the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) between 2.02 and 2.04 children per woman.


Michael Carr - Veritas Literary said...

Sounds like they've got a perfect birth rate at the moment.

Having been to Tunisia within the last couple of years, the country has a lot going for it. Natural beauty, great archeological and historical sites and a lack of touts and hustlers compared to other countries of North Africa.

The south, especially, has a lot of poverty still, but this seems to be gradually improving.

Anonymous said...

Does it say where the immigrants to Tunisia are coming from?


Michael Carr - Veritas Literary said...

I met several Libyans in Tunisia and a couple of Algerians. My guess is other countries in North Africa, probably including Morocco.

Peter Erwin said...

"... a population of 10314.5 thousand"

I think you could probably translate things like this into standard English numbers without losing too much.

Also, "10208.9 thousand million in 2007 ..." is, taken literally, 10.2 trillion people, which is probably somewhat more than Tunisia really had in 2007 ;-)

Anonymous said...

Gunnar Heinsohn has something to say about Tunisian fertility

“A woman in Tunisia has 1.7 children. In France she may have six because the French government pays her to have them. Of course, the money was never intended to benefit Tunisian women in particular, but French women will not touch this money, whereas the Tunisian women are only too happy to.”

Cicerone said...

Even if regional fertility patterns won't change in future, there is still downward pressure. The fertility in the suburbs of Tunis, the fastest growing Governorates in Tunisia is only 1.5.

Anonymous said...

Other Anonymous, i can guarantee you that no woman in Tunisia has 1.7 children and that there are Scandinavians with 12 kids.

Anonymous said...

Cicerone, could you please share your resources regarding suburban TFRs in Tunis?

Anonymous said...

Seems Tunisia is an example to othe Arab countries in terms of developing a sustainable birth rate.

There's a lot Egypt and Syria can learn not to talk of the Yemen and Iraq.

Benj said...

Regarding immigration to Tunisia, there is also a trend of elderly French people going to live in Tunisia in the sun, and also Tunisians from France or other countries coming back home after making money or earning an education in Europe.

Randy McDonald said...

@ Peter: Sub-Saharan Africa might also be a major source. That's the case in Libya, with ~1M Sub-Saharan African migrants living there.

@ Peter Erwin: There seemed to be too many decimal points if I used straightforward millions.

As for the population, well, Tunisia does have a decent climate, right?

@ Anonymous:

I'd really want to see verification for the figure of 6 births per Frenchwoman of Tunisian origin, especially since I know for a fact that's wrong--TFR's more in the 2.5-3 range.

@ Cicerone:

I'd also be quite interested in those statistics.

@ Anonymous:

Tunisia's demographic profile is the product of an all-around successful program of development, social and economic. It's not a matter of a diktat from on top--it's a matter of the wholesale change of mores in the context of an increasingly urban and affluent society. Yemen's not there because, well, Yemen hasn't been lucky. (Not that Bourguiba's regime doesn't have serious problems re: political liberties, of course.)


Tunisia as France's Florida?

The Fall of the House of Usher said...


Regarding the population of France. Would the French born Tunisian background population have a TFR of 2.5-3 or is that only the immigrant/Tunisian born population?

It would seem like French born Maghreb background population would not have much above the national TFR level anymore. I have not seen many recent statistics though.

Cicerone said...

I used http://www.ins.nat.tn/publication/Anunaire_2007.pdf

It's the Statistical Yearbook of Tunisia. Notice Ariana and Ben Arous.

I also think that the TFR of muslims in France is in the range of 3-3.5 children/woman. You just have to go on the page of INSEE and see the census results of 1999. The population-pyamid of Clichy sous bois (The town where the riots in 2005 started) looks like 3 children/woman.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Cicerone, very useful!

Randy McDonald said...

This news article, which matches up with information I've seen before, suggests that Muslims make up 9% of the general population but 16% of births in France are to Muslim parents, with a TFR of 2.9.

I'd be wary of generalizing from Clichy-sous-Bois. There's not necessarily representative, and if in fact it is as thoroughly Maghrebin in population as the Wikipedia article et cetera suggest it's anomalous on those grounds alone.

Randy McDonald said...

Also, Cicerone, thanks for the link!

Anonymous said...

"I know for a fact that's wrong--TFR's more in the 2.5-3 range"
It's news to me that French statistics go into detail on such matters*; could we have the references please? Anyway there remains the fact that the Tunisians in France have higher fertility in France than they do in Tunisia. The reverse of what was previously the case and support for Heinsohns point.

*Interview with demographer Michèle Tribalat

"Yazid Sabeg explained that he would exclude from these statistics any reference to place of birth or nationality of parents. So, how will he proceed?

- I don't know. What I see is that he refutes anything of an objective nature, such as filiation. But filiation is what allows us to distinguish the generations. It is indispensable to the knowledge we are seeking. Moreover, Yazid Sabeg is forgetting that public statistics have only recently begun to incorporate questions on the parents' country of birth. It took 15 years to achieve this breakthrough. And now everything is up in the air again! (...)"

Anonymous said...

This news article, which matches up with information I've seen before, suggests that Muslims make up 9% of the general population but 16% of births in France are to Muslim parents, with a TFR of 2.9.

It doesn't necessarily mean that the Tunisian Muslims in France have TFR's higher than their relatives back in Tunisia. What might well be the case is that the 2.9 average is pulled up by a high birth rate among sub-Saharan African Muslims in France (many of whom come from countries with very high TFR's), and that the Tunisan French rate isn't much higher than the Tunisian rate.


Randy McDonald said...


Exactly. "Muslim" is a pretty nebulous category encompassing a huge variety of peoples and populations with different mores, et cetera et cetera.

Cicerone said...

And there's still the possibility of a post-conservative-fertility-crash. Especially the Maghreb-countries have a high risk of facing that crash. 20 or 30 years from now, their TFRs could fall below 1.3.

The Fall of the House of Usher said...


I was able to determine to a substantial extent how the author of that article arrived at a estimate of 9% Muslims in France (the article seems to base it on and consider it roughly on par with the African and Turkish origin population).

However, I was not able to be sure of what the birth numbers or percents/relative share of births were based on. I read the article mainly through a translation website. Is it possible to get a reasonably accurate estimate of the percent of births to Muslim parents in France or determine what percent are born to ethnic groups that predominately follow Islam from the available statistics? Are there any immigrant TFR numbers available since after 1999?

Randy McDonald said...

The Bourcier de Carbon study mentioned in my previous link goes into somewhat more detail.

As for current fertility, INED says here that without immigrants, in 2006 the French fertility rate would by 1.9 versus the 1.98 in actuality, with a similar effect in 2007.

I'm incliend to say that overall fertility for non-European immigrants tends towards the high end of the 2.0-3.0 children spectrum, but that these are slowly converging thwards the national average as assimilation continues, while those of European immigrants rises due to the same phenomenon. The Boucier de Carbon numbers don't seem obviously wrong to me. FWIW.

Anonymous said...

Cicerone, what do you mean with post-conservative-fertility-crash as there is a high correlation with conservative areas and lowest low fertility.

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