Algeria is the biggest country in Africa and one of the richest in terms of natural resources. The county’s complex history has forged a diverse and vibrant culture. Ever since gaining its independence from France in 1962, the government of the country has fought to improve life for its citizens by rebuilding the economy and improving the political climate. But what is life really like in the country? The article below answers this question by providing the top 10 facts about living conditions in Algeria.
Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Algeria
- From 2000 to 2016, unemployment in Algeria dropped drastically, from 29.8 to 10.2 percent in 2016. In 2017, the unemployment rate went back up to 11.7 percent. This is due in part to a decline of worldwide oil prices and its adverse consequences on the Algerian economy. In general, unemployment remains more prevalent among women and younger populations.
- Algeria cut poverty by 20 percent in the past two decades. This victory comes as a result of a booming economy and effective social policies. Nonetheless, 35 percent of the total population still lives below the poverty line. Around 170,000 people or about 0.5 percent of Algerians, are considered to be in extreme poverty. In addition, 10 percent of the population is at risk of slipping back into poverty.
- More than four-fifths of Algeria is covered by the Saharan desert, rendering water a scarce commodity. Nonetheless, 83.6 percent of the population has improved access to a clean water source. In urban areas, access to clean areas is even higher, reaching 84.3 percent, compared to 81.8 percent in rural areas.
- The Algerian government boasts a system of universal health care, allocating 7.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to health expenditures in 2014. However, rural areas continue to suffer from inadequate access to quality health care facilities. As of 2009, there were 1.2 physicians for every 1,000 people, a considerably low ratio. To combat this, Algeria plans to introduce 172 public hospitals and 377 private clinics within the coming decade.
- Algeria’s economy depends greatly on its hydrocarbon revenue. The country has the 10th largest reserves of natural gas on the planet. The oil sector accounts for 30 percent of GDP and 95 percent of earnings through export. These exports help Algeria keep external debt low and maintain a healthy economy. Recently, the decline of oil prices has forced the government to cut funding of public subsidies and provoked an increase in taxes on some imported goods.
- Agriculture is a strong contributor to Algeria’s national economy, boasting 20 percent of the labor force and 10 percent of GDP. Nonetheless, arable land (useful agricultural area) is scarce with only 8.7 million hectares available for use, or just under 3 percent of the total surface area. Sustainable development is threatened greatly by water scarcity. This has serious repercussions on Algeria’s food import dependency, rendering food security unstable.
- Huge disparities in wealth exist among Algeria’s rich and poor. A small minority control 42.6 percent of the country’s wealth, benefiting from quality health care and education. The impoverished 20 percent of the population control 7 percent of the wealth, struggling daily to provide food and clean water for themselves and their families.
- There are 2.66 children per woman in Algeria today on average, compared to seven children per woman in 1970. The drop in fertility rates is contributed mainly to women’s rising age at first marriage and education. Algeria’s current population is an estimated 40.5 million people.
- The Algerian government allocates 4.3 percent of its GDP to education. The overall literacy rate is 79.6 percent, as 86.1 percent of males and 73.9 percent of females are able to read and write. Family revenue plays a monumental role in access to quality education, meaning only a few have resources for private and international schools.
- Algerians have a strained relationship with their government, a result of poor management and corruption. In the past, this has been the cause of protests and clashes between police forces and Algerian citizens. Despite this, the government continues prioritizing its resources for enacting policies to improve living conditions. This includes developing regional security, unemployment, poverty and the economy.
These top 10 facts about living conditions in Algeria detail the nation’s complex political climate and social issues. However, a desire to move toward a more positive future is evident in governmental decisions to enact policies for change. Investments into the health and education sectors, as well as drastic improvements in unemployment rates, are clear steps that the country is heading in the right direction.
– Natalie Abdou