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Atlas of Lebanon

Part 2 - Population and migration

The Population of Lebanon: the Enigma

Éric Verdeil et Bruno Dewailly

Texte intégral

1Of all the uncertainties surrounding statistics in Lebanon, the one related to the Lebanese population is certainly one of the most sensitive and challenging. While no census has been conducted since 1932, the civil registry is usually kept in the locality of origin, not in the individuals’ current place of residency, be it in Lebanon or abroad. The last Census of Buildings, Dwellings and Establishments dates from 2004. Other surveys were then conducted in 2007 and 2009 and enabled the Central Administration of Statistics to suggest an estimation of the number of residents by muhafazat (only expressed as a percentage for 2009). These figures reveal a decrease from 1997 to 2004, followed by a period of stagnation. This is surprising because despite a decreasing fertility rate, the natural growth rate is still quite high due to the number of young people reaching adulthood. Therefore, observers have challenged the reliability of these demographic estimates, even more so that other issues remain unclear.

2The first is about emigration, which is little documented in official data. It seems to counterbalance the natural growth. The figures regarding border crossings show a negative balance amounting to 40,000 to 50,000 Lebanese residents per year. Only independent studies, such as the ones published by Saint Joseph University, provide in-depth analyses, including about outbound destinations (see hereinafter). The knowledge of the foreign population settled in Lebanon also remains limited. According to independent estimates, 700,000 foreign residents could be accounted for in 2011. Official data display a positive balance related to entrances since 2011. Beside the massive influx of Syrian refugees, the number of residents also grows with the inflow of foreign workers. Apart from Syrian citizens, the number of people coming from Arab countries has decreased since 2011 but the number of workers, especially female workers, coming from Asia and Africa has steadily increased.

Figure II-2: The existing data sets

Figure II-2: The existing data sets

Figure II-3: Mapping of the urban population in Lebanon based on data published by Geopolis

Figure II-3: Mapping of the urban population in Lebanon based on data published by Geopolis

3Uncertainties about the resident population and its nationality become considerable when one wants to grasp its spatial distribution. Spatial data about foreign residents are scarce, except when it comes to Syrian refugees, in relation to whom very detailed information is collected. A 2011 survey about Palestinian refugees has revealed a major discrepancy between the number of registered individuals (about 450,000) and the number of people actually living in Lebanon (270,000 in 2011). There are no regional data series on the average household size that are precise enough to be used as a reference for local estimates of the resident population, as done in the National Master Plan report in 2002, which we used in our 2007 Atlas of Lebanon. Such estimates would be outdated in any case. We therefore settled for an estimate which excludes Syrian and Palestinian refugees and is based on natural growth and average hypotheses about emigration, resulting in a population of about 4.2 million inhabitants without refugees. We then distributed it across muhafazats based on the regional structure released by the CAS in 2009, in order to be able to compare it to the refugee population (see hereinafter).

4Likewise, studying urban population is a delicate matter. For information purposes, we mapped the estimates provided by Geopolis: these are based on a coherent methodology, which includes taking into account building density and an estimate of the population by local units, even though these figures could be criticized when examined in detail. According to this estimate, in 2010, 80% of the population lived in one of the 17 urban centers of more than 10,000 inhabitants, including about 2 million in the metropolitan area of Beirut and its suburbs.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure II-2: The existing data sets
Fichier image/jpeg, 111k
Titre Figure II-3: Mapping of the urban population in Lebanon based on data published by Geopolis
Fichier image/png, 153k

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