The Economist published an interesting map this week that hints at one of the potential sources of Middle Eastern instability — the demographic imbalances in most Middle Eastern countries.
As is evident on the map, over half the population in most Middle Eastern countries is under the age of 25. In a sluggish global economy, this imbalance drives instability as youth become disaffected when they are unable to find jobs. Chronic unrest also tends to rise when there is a youth bulge. Even the United States experienced significant unrest during the 1960s when baby boomers came of age.
Youth is not necessarily a bad thing. I’m not so sure that we, the older generation, have done such a great job of running things. Oftentimes, the young, in their naivete and “inexperience”, see things more clearly and have the motivation and energy to change things that need to be changed.
You are right. Youth, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. However, youth bulges have been associated with bouts of instability in various countries — for better or worse. When a massive amount of the population is under the age of 25, there is no way certain economies will be able to grow at the rates necessary to ensure full employment for their youth. When younger people are unemployed they are more likely to resort to crime or violence. That is why for some of the more recent military missions in Iraq, for instance, that an important metric for military commanders was reducing local unemployment. By keeping local men busy, they had less incentive to plant bombs for insurgents.