Demographics of Lebanon

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The population of Lebanon comprises different ethnic groups and religions: Muslims (Sunnis and Shiites), Christians (mainly West Aramean/Syriac and Armenian), Druze (Fatimid), and others. Because the matter of religious balance is such a sensitive political issue, a national census has not been conducted since 1932, before the founding of the modern Lebanese State. Consequently there is an absence of accurate data on the relative percentages of the population of the major religions and groups. Many observers believe that Muslims constitute a majority the population, but they do not represent a homogenous group. Heterogeneous Christian denominations constitute most of the remainder of the population. There is also a small Jewish population, traditionally centered in Beirut. Add to this some negligible numbers of Bahá'ís, Buddhists, and Hindus. As for the emigrant population, millions of Lebanese, mostly Maronite/Canaani are present outside the country.

There are 18 officially recognized religious groups. Their ecclesiastical and demographic patterns are extremely complex. Divisions and rivalries between groups date back as far as 15 centuries, and still are a factor today. The pattern of settlement has changed little since the Seventh century, although there has been a steady numerical decline in the number of Christians compared to Muslims. The main branches of Islam are the majority Shi'a and the minority Sunni. Since the Eleventh century, there has been a sizable Druze presence, concentrated in rural, mountainous areas east and south of Beirut. The smallest Muslim group are the Ismaili ("Sevener") Shi’a order. The Alawites are a community who are nominally Muslims, but whose beliefs vary widely from Islam (for example they are Trinitarian, celebrate Christian holidays, and use sacramental wine). The "Twelver" Shi’a, Sunni, and Druze each have state-appointed clerical bodies to administer family and personal status law through their own religious courts, which are subsidized by the State. The Maronites are the largest of the Christian groups. They have had a long and continuous association with the Roman Catholic Church, but have their own patriarch, liturgy, and customs. The second largest Christian group is the Greek Orthodox Church. The remainder of the Christians are divided among Greek Catholics, Armenian Orthodox (Gregorians), Armenian Catholics, Syrian Orthodox (Jacobites) (Aramean), Syrian Catholics (Aramean), (Nestorians) (Assyrian), Chaldeans (Assyrian), Copts (Egyptian), Evangelicals (including Protestant groups such as the Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, and Friends), and Latins (Roman Catholics). [1]

402,582 Palestinian refugees were registered in Lebanon with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in March 2005. But estimates of those remaining range between 160,000 and 225,000. They are not accorded the legal rights enjoyed by the rest of the population.

With no official figures available, it is estimated that 600,000-900,000 (??) persons fled the country during the initial years of civil war (1975-76). Although some returned, continuing instability until 1992 sparked further waves of emigration, casting even more doubt on population figures.

Many Lebanese still derive their living from agriculture. The urban population, concentrated mainly in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, is noted for its commercial enterprise. A century and a half of migration and return have produced Lebanese commercial networks around the globe--from North and South America to Europe, the Gulf, and Africa. Lebanon has a high proportion of skilled labor compared with many other Middle Eastern countries.

Demographics of Lebanon, Data of FAO, year 2005 ; Number of inhabitants in thousands.

Population: 3,826,018 (July 2005 est.)

Age structure: 0-14 years: 26.7% (male 520,270; female 499,609) 15-64 years: 66.4% (male 1,216,738; female 1,324,031) 65 years and over: 6.9% (male 120,176; female 145,194) (2005 est.)

Median age: total: 27.34 years male: 26.28 years female: 28.43 years (2005 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.26% (2005 est.)

Birth rate: 18.88 births/1,000 population (2005 est.) Death rate: 6.24 deaths/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (2005 est.)

Infant mortality rate: total: 24.52 deaths/1,000 live births male: 27.18 deaths/1,000 live births female: 21.71 deaths/1,000 live births (2005 est.)

Life expectancy at birth: total population: 72.63 years male: 70.17 years female: 75.21 years (2005 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.92 children born/woman (2005 est.)

Palestinian refugees

An overwhelming majority of these people do not fall under the United Nations High Comminsioner for refugees' (which deals with all refugee situations except this one) definition of refugees.

These camps are sponsered by the UN the United Nations Relief Works Agency ([[UNRWA]) and by the West.

The Lebanese Diaspora

Apart from the three million citizens of Lebanon proper, there is a sizeable Lebanese diaspora numbering about 15 million, of whom 13 million are Christians.

The large size of Lebanon's diaspora may be partly explained by the historical and cultural tradition of sea-faring and travelling, which stretches back to Lebanon's ancient Phoenician origins. It is a commonplace for Lebanese citizens to emigrate in search of economic prosperity. Additionally, twice in the last two centuries has the Lebanese population endured periods of ethnic cleansing and displacement (1840-60 and 1975-2005). These factors have contributed to the geographical mobility of the Lebanese people.

In addition, while under Syrian influence prior to 2005, Beirut passed legislation which prevented second-generation Lebanese of the diaspora from automatically obtaining Lebanese citizenship. This has reinforced the emigré status of many diaspora Lebanese.

There is currently a campaign by those Lebanese of the diaspora who already have Lebanese citizenship to attain the vote. If suffrage were to be extended to these 1.2 million Lebanese emigrés, it would have a significant effect on political demographics in the country. 80% of the 1.2 million Diaspora Lebanese citizens are thought to be Christians.

Foreign Workers

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The issue of the naturalized (1994)


  • Ethnic Groups: Lebanon encompasses a great mix of cultures and ethnic groups which have been building up for more than 6000 years. The Lebanese Maronite Christians are descendants of the Phoenicians/Canaanis (30%). The Sunni (& Alawite)Muslim and Greek and Roman Christian Fellahin of Lebanon are of a mixed Levantine (Syrian/Shami) origin (30%). The Shiite Arabs constitute 30% of the entire population. Druzes/Fatimids are about 6%. The Armenians, Assyrians, Jews, Arameans, Kurds (Guti), Persians and others form about 4%.
  • Various expatriate Arabs: "Palestinian refugees" 360,000; Syrian citizens approximately between 150,000 to 300,000 (Lebanese ministry estimations), also a sizable Egyptian labor pool.

fr:Démographie du Liban es:Demografía de Líbano