Socio-economic Development, Population Policies, and Fertility Decline in Muslim Countries

As societies transform from a predominantly traditional to a predominantly modern system, they tend to experience considerable demographic changes. Coale (1984) notes that this “transformation is the substitution of slow growth achieved with low fertility and mortality for slow growth maintained with relatively high fertility and mortality rates”. Demographic transition in Muslim countries is a fairly late phenomenon as discussed in the next section. Most of these countries have followed a similar trend as by many other developing countries. According to the most recent estimate provided by The Economist [September (2003)], the number of Muslims was 1.5 billion in 2003, of which about 97 percent were living in Asian and African countries. About one fourth were concentrated in South Asia and another one-fifth in the Middle-East and North Africa (Arab countries). Figure 1 provides the breakdown of Muslim population living in different regions of the World. Percentage of population in major Muslim countries and their estimated number at the beginning of the 21st Century are given in Table 1. Of 47 Muslim-majority countries, where more than 50 percent of the total population is reported to be followers of Islam,1 36 have populations that are more than 85 percent Muslims, while only seven of them contain less than 70 percent Muslims. However, the six largest Muslim-majority countries (in order, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Turkey and Egypt) contain about two-thirds of the