Country Profile

The situation in Iraq remains volatile after years of wars, sanctions and conflicts. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party in 2003, modern day Iraq has slowly emerged as a democratic state.  Nevertheless, the people of Iraq are still suffering the consequences of economic stagnation and reduced access to essential services.


Basic Information

  • Population: 32,000,000
  • Land area: 438,000 km2
  • Capital city: Baghdad
  • Government: Federal parliamentary republic

Population and Housing

  • Iraq’s population tripled between 1970 and 2007, growing from 10 to 32 million.
  • 71% of Iraqis currently live in urban areas. More than half of the urban population lives in slum-like conditions.
  • By 2030, the population will grow to almost 50 million, which will put further strains on access to adequate housing.


Employment and Poverty

  • 7 million Iraqis (23% of the total population) live in poverty (spending less than 77,000 Iraqi Dinars per person per month, or 2.2 US$ per person per day.
  • 3 out of 4 Iraqis identified the need to reduce poverty as the most pressing need.
  • Unemployment rate is 11% nationally (7% of males and 13% of females). 653,000 people are unemployed.
  • Public sector employment accounted for nearly 60% of full-time employment in 2011The government provides 40% of jobs; the remainder is in the private sector. While accounting for 65% of Iraq’s GDP, the oil sector currently employs only 1% of the total labour force.
  • The use of technology has increased rapidly since 2003, 78% of Iraqis use mobile telephones and 12% own a personal computer.


Youth & Women

  • Unemployment rates among the youth population (15-24 years) dropped from 30% in 2008 to 22.8% in 2011.
  • Iraq is considered one of the most youthful countries in the world with nearly half of its population being less than 21 years old.
  • Women in Iraq are underrepresented in the higher levels of the public sector and government.
  • The participation of women in politics remains below the target level. In 2010, the average rate of parliament seats held by women was 27%. 
  • Just 18% of women are employed or looking for employment, and they take up only 7% of employment in non-agricultural sectors.
  • Violence, traditional societal views of women, insecurity and weak performance of state functions are affecting the role of Iraqi women in rebuilding the country.
  • The percentage of women in paid employment in the non-agricultural sector has risen from 12.1% in 2008 to 14.7% in 2011.


Refugees & the Internally Displaced

  • 1.5 million Iraqis are estimated to be living in neighbouring countries.
  • Approximately 35,000 refugees are registered inside Iraq, mostly Palestinians, Syrians and Iranians.
  • IDP and returnee families cite access to services like employment, shelter, health, water and fuel as a priority need.

Education & Literacy

  • One in five Iraqis, aged 10 – 49, cannot read or write.
  • Education at all levels is hindered by outdated curricula and teaching methods and poor infrastructure. Net primary enrolment dropped from 91% to 85% between 1990 and 2007, and is particularly low at 70% among girls in rural areas.
  • Iraq has made steady progress enrolling children in primary education. The percentage of enrollment rose from 76.3% in 2000 to 89.1% in 2011.
  • Illiteracy among Iraqi women (24%) is more than double that of Iraqi men (11%).
  • Rural populations are more adversely affected by Illiteracy (25%) than urban (14%) populations; within rural areas the literacy divide between men and women is wider.



  • Iraq’s health sector faces considerable and complex challenges, despite recent improvements. Access to quality primary healthcare has improved, but primary healthcare centres remain out of reach for many Iraqis.
  • 20 minutes is the average  time it takes for a household  to reach the closest health facility.
  • The proportion of children dying within the first year of life has dropped from 50 to 35 for every 1,000 live births.
  • The proportion of births attended by skilled personnel has risen considerably from 50% in 1999 to 89% in 2006.


Water & Sanitation

  • Availability of water for agriculture, industry and household supplies is a major issue for Iraq. The quality and quantity of the country’s water is impacted by upstream damming, pollution, climate change and inefficient usage.
  • The Tigris and the Euphrates are Iraq’s two major surface water sources; they may dry up by 2040 if current conditions prevail.
  • The amount of water available per person per year decreased from 5,900 cubic metres in 1977 to 2,400 cubic metres in 2009. Except for Turkey, Iraq has more available water than its neighbours.
  • 20% of households in Iraq use an unsafe drinking water source.
  • 65% of households use public networks as a main source of drinking water.
  • 92% of total freshwater is used for irrigation and food production.
  • 70.6% of the population in 2011 had sustainable access to an improved water source.
  • 30% of households have access to the public sanitation network; Households without access to the public network use either a septic tank (40%) or covered drain (25%) to dispose waste.



  • Iraq’s environment has suffered greatly from the impact of poor policies on pollution and resource management. As a result, the country is exposed to a range of environmental issues, including drought, desertification and increasing soil salinity.
  • 39% of Iraq’s agricultural land suffered a reduction in cropland between 2007 and 2009.
  • The years of conflict and violence left chemical pollution and unexploded ordnances affecting the livelihoods and safety of an estimated 1.6 million Iraqis.
  • The Marshlands, in the south of Iraq are the largest wetlands in the southwest Asia and are recognized as one of the world’s most exceptional ecosystems. Percentage of dried Mesopotamian marshlands is now 90% and proportion of land area covered by forest is 4.0%.



  • Electricity supplies are unreliable, with the public network on average only able to supply eight hours of power to Iraqi households per day, even during periods of low demand; on average, households receive 14.6 hours of electricity per day through a combination of the public network or private generators.
  • 90% of households supplement the public network with private generators.
  • According to the Ministry of Electricity, Iraq is generating 8,000 of the 13-15,000 mega-watts of power currently required to meet Iraqi needs today.


Oil & Gas

  • The oil industry dominates the Iraqi economy. Iraq could become the world’s oil superpower with the ability to influence markets on a global scale.
  • Iraq currently produces 2.6 million barrels of oil per day: 2 million are exported, 400,000 are refined and 70,000 are used for electric fuel generation.
  • Oil contributes 60% of GDP, 99% of exports and over 90% of Government revenue.
  • Iraq has 143 billion barrels of oil reserves and a potential further 200 billion barrels identified and recoverable.
  • Iraq has 3,100 billion standard cubic metres of gas reserves.



  • 54% of the population believes that the corruption situation has deteriorated during the last two years.
  • 12% all Iraqis who have contacts with civil servants are giving a bribe.
  • 95% of bribery incidents go unreported.





•    Inter-Agency IAU, Iraq Labour Force Analysis 2003-2008 (2009)
•    World Bank/COSIT/KRSO IHSES 2007
•    GoI, FAO, UNICEF, WFP, Food Deprivation in Iraq (draft report 2009)
•    WFP/COSIT/KRSO Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis 2007
•    UN Population Division 2008
•    IOM Iraq: Review of Displacement and Return in Iraq, August 2010IIOM Iraq:
•    UNHCR, Monthly statistical update on return (June 2010)
•    UNHCR, Monthly Statistical Update on Return, July 2010
•    U.S. Census, International Database, 2010
•    UNFPA/COSIT/KRSO/MoYS Iraq National Youth and Adolescent Survey 2009
•    COSIT Labour Force Survey 2008
•    MDG Indicator Database:
•    UNFPA/COSIT/KRSO/MoYS Iraq National Youth and Adolescent Survey 2009
•    UNFPA/COSIT/KRSO/MoYS Iraq National Youth and Adolescent Survey 2009
•    COSIT Labour Force Survey 2008
•    World Bank/COSIT/KRSO IHSES 2007
•    World Food Programme VAM 2007
•    United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), MICS, 2012
•    UNESCO, “UNESCO calls for concerted efforts to protect water resources in Iraq on the occasion of World Water Day 2010” (March 2010)
•    FAO/Inter-agency Information and Analysis Unit, Drought Mapping Analysis (2009); OCHA, Drought Report (2009)
•    Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works
•    Ministry of Electricity (Figure does not include Kurdistan Regional Government)
•    ENEP Report on Marshlands (2009)
•    IMMAP/UNDP Landmine Impact Survey 2004-2007
•    Iraq Knowledge Network Survey, 2011 (Central Statistics Office, Kurdistan Regional Statistics Office)
•    Iraq - International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 2009-04-27.
•    Progress in Iraq: The Millennium Development Goals, 2013

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