West Bank, Gaza Arab Population to Increase Substantially by Year 2002

The Arab population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will number between 1.9 and 2.4 million 15 years from now, an increase of 44 to 81 percent despite an anticipated decline in the fertility rate and the possibility that more Arabs will leave the territories than enter them, according to a study by the Central Bureau of Statistics published Sunday. The Arab population now is about 1.3 million. The study, titled “Population Forecast for Judaea, Samaria and the Gaza District by 2002,” projects an average annual growth rate of 2.2 to 3.5 percent for the Arab population.

A Bureau spokesman said it is based on the assumption that Arab births in the West Bank will decline from 6.5 per woman in the period 1983-87 to five per woman by the period 1998-2002.

In the Gaza Strip, the number of births per woman is expected to decline from 7.2 to 5.7. But life expectancy in both territories will rise from the current 63 years to 69 years in 1998-2002, the Bureau said.

The study posited three possible scenarios with respect to population movement: (A) “Zero emigration balance” by which the number of outgoing residents will equal the number of incoming residents in both territories; (B) Outgoing residents will outnumber incoming by 8,000 a year in the West Bank and by 6,500 a year in the Gaza District; (C) A negative emigration rate of 10 percent per 1,000 in both territories.

According to these assumptions, the West Bank Arab population will total between 1.1 and 1.4 million by 2002 compared to 813,000 at present and the Arab population in the Gaza District will reach 800,000 compared to 526,000 at present.

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