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Jerusalem’s Shifting Demographic Profile
submitted by Jerusalem Quarterly

A statistical reading of the city’s demographic map
Luay Shabbaneh

The Jerusalem Quarterly
Summer 2006
Issue 27

This article will present a reading of social and demographic transformation in Jerusalem in comparison with both Israeli residents of the same city, and West Bankers.1 This analysis is based on statistics derived from a variety of local and international sources. Social and demographic transformation in Palestine, and particularly in Jerusalem, is caused both by the Israeli occupation and natural change. Natural transformations result from population growth, migration, fertility and mortality, while ‘occupation-made’ transformations have been imposed on the Palestinian people through displacement and compulsory population mobility. Residents face emerging direct and indirect challenges to their wellbeing. High population density, limited labour opportunities, lack of investment, poor quality of services, and a failure to meet service-related needs accompanying natural growth (through adequate education, health and social services, and infrastructure) all make living conditions extremely difficult and deprive society of the chance for growth and stability.

Demography and Strategic Options
The demographic struggle, in which Jerusalem is a crucial battlefield, has been a central issue for Palestine and Israel for decades. This debate ebbs and flows, depending on political trends, the proximity of serious political solutions, and their accompanying ramifications for population distribution and the natural resources that lie between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

From Israel’s perspective, demographic considerations are a central starting point for the formulation of strategic options. Israeli decision-makers are particularly troubled by the demographic specifics of Palestinian society, which they see as a future threat. Palestinian society is young–minors under 14 years of age constitute about 46% of the population. Furthermore, young people and teens between the ages of 10 and 24 constitute approximately 33% of the whole. The growing number of young people in Palestinian society puts a burden on breadwinners and the rate of dependency rose to 96.3% in 2005.

What further compounds these grim statistics is the continuing rise in unemployment rates (especially among youth) to 39.8% for the 15-24 age group, in addition to an increase in poverty rates. In families where the head of the household is a female, poverty rates are 68.5%, as compared with 67.5% for households headed by a male. This has (and will have) adverse affects on economic and social growth. Population estimations indicate a continuing rise in fertility rates (5.6 births per capita in 2003), and these predictions indicate that the Palestinian population will double over the next 23 years.

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