Demography and economic geography. – State of North Africa. The Tunisian population is estimated at 11,116,899 residents, According to an estimate by UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) in 2014, once again recording limited annual growth (since 1995 it has never reached 1.4%) and confirming a slower trend than the average of the other Middle East and North African countries. The demographic transition appears to be nearing completion, as confirmed by the birth rate which has no longer reached 20% since 1995, although there has been a slight increase in recent years, also confirmed by the synthetic fertility index, which went back to 2.2 children. per woman in 2012. Compared to European border countries, Tunisia still has a very low average age (31.4 years estimated in 2014) and a life expectancy that is progressively increasing (75.9 years, 2013), but which still places the country in 92nd place in the 2014 estimates. Some indicators show the country’s progress in recent years, especially in the training of the youngest: the literacy rate has grown over the course of the new millennium, reaching almost 80% (2011), while the total of young people in the 15-24 year-old class reached 97% on the same date. The fight against extreme poverty has also borne fruit: before the 2011 revolution, the percentage of the population living on less than $ 2 (at the same prices) was 4.4%, halved compared to the 2005 figure. Finally, access to drinking water concerns the entire urban population and 90% than the rural one. These are progresses which, in order to be completed, would require, according to the indications of international organizations, an increase in public spending of 6% of GDP, a hypothesis not easily practicable in the coming years.
Due to its conformation, the Tunisian space is populated in an unbalanced way with a development according to a West-East, interior-coast gradient, also on the socio-economic level. The 13 coastal governorates account for almost 70% of the total population, with a density more than double the national average. However, these are values that are not comparable with the gigantism of other developing realities: the only governorate that exceeds one million residents is that of Tunis. The most significant growth in the period 2009-13 is reported in the case of the governorates of Ariana (+ 57%) and Ben Arous (+ 50.5%), created in 1983 by the separation from that of Tunis and expression of the suburbanization process of capital. In the same period, equally important population increases are recorded along the southern coastline, with Sousse (55.5%) and Sfax (+ 51.5%). The share of the urbanized population has grown slowly over the years and reached 66.4% in 2013, but it was already 61% in 1993. The capital Tunis remains the most populated city (651,183 residents Estimated in 2013) and the most important economic and commercial hub in the country. The medina, one of the best preserved structures in the Arab world, still retains a high density, hosting more than 100,000 residents in 270 hectares; however, due to the strong demographic pressure, the extension of the urbanized area has touched, in an often chaotic way, different directions with the creation of new neighborhoods that have incorporated thenearest banlieues. For Tunisia 2012, please check oxfordastronomy.com.
Economic conditions. – Before the global economic crisis, Tunisia had embarked on one of the fastest economic growths in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) area, starting in the 1990s. In the last decade of the twentieth century, GDP growth was 5% on average, decreasing by only one point in the first ten years of 2000. Although to a lesser extent (2.8% in 2014), even in the years of crisis the Tunisian product recorded an increase. In general, over the last few decades, social and economic indicators of well-being have increased significantly and, in particular, per capita income it reached $ 4,317 in 2013, almost doubling the value in 2000. The current economic system is better diversified than in the past. Agricultural activity still has a specific weight as it ensures 8% of wealth and absorbs 18% of the workforce (4 million people in 2013), thanks to the typical Mediterranean products. Industrial activities make up the GDP for over 30% and participate in the same share in the composition of the workforce, with a still strong role for mineral products (phosphates and oil) and related chemical production. Agricultural products together with mining products and the textile sector (processed and semi-finished) make up the majority of exports which, as for imports, always see France and Italy as the main partners. A moderate importance is still the prerogative of the tourism sector, which represents 7% of the product, but the terrorist attacks of 2015 will have a significant impact on the propulsive capacity of this sector. The unemployment rate is still high (15.3% in 2014), especially in the younger generations (33% in the 15-24 age group). The ‘jasmine revolution’ that began at the end of 2010 (with the sensational gesture of the street vendor who set himself on fire in protest) and exploded with the demonstration of January 14, 2011 (with the deposition of Ben ῾Alī) has not yet created discontinuity in this economic trend. Unlike other realities in transformation in the Arab Spring, these events led to a long and laborious democratization process, which resulted in the first free elections of the Parliament and of the President of the Republic in the autumn of 2014. Nonetheless, these changes have not generated significant improvements in the Tunisian economic environment, still linked to policies that limit competition, while strong regional imbalances remain, a substantial stagnation of businesses in terms of productivity and job creation and, finally, an inadequate supply of work for the most highly trained people. Not surprisingly, the remittances of emigrants still have a weight in the country’s wealth: there are 640,000 Tunisians abroad, with important communities in France and Italy.