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Economy in Brief

Why Now? The Revolutions In Egypt, Tunisia And Yemen
by Louise Curley   January 31, 2011

Rising food and oil prices and the large proportion of young people in the populations of Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen are inciting the citizens of these countries, finally, to revolt against long standing grievances. Data on these factors can be found in various data bases of Haver Analytics.

Daily prices of basic food stuffs and energy can be found in DAILY or INTDAILY. The recent rise in the daily prices of wheat, corn, soybeans and oil can be seen in the first chart, which shows prices during the last year. Oil is up more than 30% over a year ago. Corn and wheat are up almost 90% over a year ago and soybeans are up more than 50%. The rise in food prices has had a greater impact on these countries than, say, the United States because of the importance of food in the cost of living of these countries. Food accounts for about 44% of living expenditures in Egypt, and 33% in Tunisia, compared with 14% in the United States. These data are taken from the series, CPI weights, in EMERGEMA (A469CWFB and N744CWFB) and in USECON (RUFB)(Comparable data for Yemen are not available.).

Population data by age are found in the UNPOP data base. This is an extensive data base giving the estimated population of most countries of the world from 1950 though 2009 and projections through 2050. We have added the number of persons in the (15-19), (20-24) and (25-29) age groups and computed the proportion the sum is of the total. It can be seen in the three attached charts that the proportion of 15-29 year olds in the three countries is currently around a peak. In 2010 the 15-29 year olds were 30% of the total population in Yemen, 29% in Egypt and Tunisia, compared with 21% in the U. S. Incidentally, the peak proportion of the 15-29 age group in the U. S. was 27.5% in 1979. In addition to the large numbers of the 15-29 age group, unemployment is high in these countries. In 2010 it was 9% in Egypt and 13% in Tunisia. Again, data for Yemen are not available. While the unemployment rate is not broken down by age, it is safe to say that the young bear the brunt of unemployment. The unemployment rate is found in EMERGEMA.

Monitoring the data bases noted above could reveal potential trouble spots.

Population 15-29 as % of Total 1990 2000 2010 2020 2030 2040 2050
Egypt 25.9 28.3 29.2 25.1 24.9 23.1 20.9
Tunisia 28.4 29.2 28.9 22.0 19.5 19.5 17.6
Yemen 26.3 27.0 30.2 29.3 28.7 28.0 25.6
United States 23.3 20.9 21.0 20.0 19.4 18.7 18.0
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