Before the war against Iran broke out in
1980, Iraq had one of the Middle East's most elaborate
welfare systems. There were pensions and other social
benefits for employees in the public sector, industry
and commerce. The health care was free of charge and
held a high quality for the region.
Since then, social conditions have greatly
deteriorated for the Iraqis. The Kuwait War of 1990-1991
and the subsequent UN sanctions created a food and
health disaster in the country. In 1998, the Iraqi
Ministry of Health claimed that at least 1.5 million
Iraqis, most of them children, had died from illness and
malnutrition as a result of the sanctions. Until 1996,
basic food was rationed to about half the daily need.
The social safety nets largely stopped working. The
result was growing social problems such as crime,
smuggling, prostitution and begging. The conflicts that
have shaken the country since 2003 have continued to
adversely affect the country's social conditions. Life
expectancy dropped from 71 years at the end of the 1990s
to 69 in 2012.
Countryaah Official Site:
Official statistics for population in Iraq, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
The country's large oil revenues during the 1990s
have not had a major impact in the population, although
poverty problems have decreased somewhat. In 2010, the
Baghdad government launched a poverty reduction program,
which was reported to comprise 23 percent of Iraqis.
Poverty is not evenly distributed in the country.
The lack of clean water was another major threat to
public health during the years of sanctions. The
chlorine for water purification was not allowed to be
imported as it was considered to be usable in the
manufacture of prohibited weapons. Even today many
problems remain. In 2010, the World Bank announced that
fewer than seven out of ten Iraqis outside Baghdad had
access to potable water and that every fourth household
in the capital lacked access to municipal water. Outside
of Baghdad, fewer than one in ten households are
connected to the drainage systems.
Yet in 2005, one-sixth of households suffered from
food shortages and hunger according to the UN. Millions
of people, mainly children, were estimated to be
chronically malnourished. The situation improved in
2008; then 3 percent of households were threatened by
starvation. Nine out of ten Iraqis had access to free
food rations from the government that year. The
situation worsened again in 2014 due to the large
refugee flows triggered by the fighting between the
government, the Kurdish forces and the Islamic State.
The upgrading of health care after the 2003 US-led
invasion has been slow, and the medical profession
became the target in the violence that followed in the
years following the invasion. The Iraqi Medical
Association stated in 2007 that almost 75 percent of all
doctors, nurses and pharmacists had abandoned their
workplaces. More than half of them had moved abroad.
Diseases that have increased in scope include diarrhea,
diphtheria and typhoid fever. Around 70 percent of all
children who died in 2006 - in addition to daily
violence - suffered from relatively easily treated
diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia.
A particular problem is all the mines that have
remained in the terrain after the war. Most were laid
out during the Iraq-Iran war or other conflicts a long
time ago. More than 4,000 cities and villages had
problems with landmines in 2013, according to the UN
agency Unicef. One million children are believed to live
in an environment where land mines exist.
Two thirds of Iraqis live in urban areas, one third
in rural areas.
No proper censuses have been made since 1997. The
issue is controversial as the different religious and
political groups have different views on the composition
of the country. Particularly sensitive is the issue of
the majority of people in the disputed areas between the
Kurdish authorities in the north and the central
government in Baghdad.
Arabs, Kurds and other groups in society now live
more geographically separated than before 2003. Within
each group there are large gaps between rich and poor.
For those who are part of the elite, or who want to try
to climb there, it is crucial to have the support of
relatives or friends in the government or ministries in
Baghdad or in the provinces. Without high-level
contacts, it can be difficult to get a coveted job or
start a business.
Religion plays a major political role. Among Shi'ite
Arabs, the religious leaders, whose higher ranks are
called Ayatollahs, are also very important as political
leaders. This is also true among religious minorities
such as the Christian churches and Yazidis, as well as
among Sunni Muslims, although there is no such clear
hierarchy among the religious leaders in Sunni Islam.
The educated, urban middle class has experienced
difficult years since 2003 and many of that group,
mainly Sunni Arabs, have moved away from the cities from
the violence. At the same time, the proportion of poor
and unemployed in the cities has grown. A new wave of
refugees took off in 2014, when IS spread. According to
the UN, by mid-2014, around 1.9 million Iraqis had been
displaced from their homes as a result of the war. In
Iraq, there are also small groups of Palestinian
refugees who have been hit hard by the war since 2003,
as they are often associated with Saddam Hussein's
fallen regime. Since 2011, refugees have also arrived
from Syria. In December 2017, the UN refugee agency
UNHCR estimated that there were nearly 250,000 Syrian
refugees in Iraq, many of them Syrian Kurds who have
taken refuge in northern Iraq. Just in Northern Iraq has
received a very large proportion of internal refugees,
Iraq is very much a clan society, although it differs
between different parts of the country and between city
and country. Traditional Sheikhs and other leaders have
the decisive influence in their home areas, which can be
large areas. Some clans have joined some of the
political parties and thus expanded the social networks.
Alongside the larger sound community, the large
family, often with several generations living together,
is the basis of community life. The typical family
includes a married couple, their sons with wives and
children, and unmarried daughters. Other relatives may
also be included in the group. Traditionally, it is the
oldest man who makes the decisions about real estate and
possible land, as well as about the young people's
education, work and marriage. The women in the house are
often jointly responsible for the household and care of
the children. The older woman has the right to decide on
the wives and children of her sons.
It is not uncommon now that younger couples in the
cities have their own households - if they have advice
and opportunity; The housing shortage is great - but
they can still be part of the big family when it comes
to family and community decisions.
In the extended family it is central to preserve the
family unit. The needs and interests of the family go
before the will of the individual. The elderly guard the
younger, the men guard the women, and the one who
"shamed" the family can be severely punished.
Honor-related violence, including murder, is not
uncommon. This has been particularly noted in the
Kurdish region, despite the authorities trying to stop
When parents make decisions about their children's
marriage partners, they are happy to choose a cousin or
other relative who is considered to have both social and
economic benefits. Many educated in the cities find
themselves a partner, but formally still require
permission from the parents.
According to Muslim family law (Sharia), it is easy
for men to apply for divorce but almost impossible for a
woman. A man is to inherit twice as much as a woman,
which is justified by the fact that the husband will in
future have a livelihood, while the woman is taken care
of by male relatives and later by her husband (see also
Iraq has major gender equality problems, as a result
of both poverty problems and a widespread, strongly
conservative view of gender roles and women's position
in society. Women have very little political and
economic influence. More than two out of five men have
upper secondary education (or higher), while this only
applies to one in five women. Women are quoted in the
parliamentary elections, which means that a quarter of
the seats are currently held by women. Very few women
have their own work and income (see Labor Market). There
are feminist groups that fight for women's equal rights,
but they work in the headwinds.
Iraq is a very young country. Two out of five Iraqis
are under 15 and population growth is high, which puts
great pressure on the education system and the labor and
housing market. However, family sizes in Iraq have
dropped, as are most countries in the region, but the
numbers are still relatively high. In 1970, an average
Iraqi woman gave birth to 7.4 children. In 2010, that
figure was down to 4.2 children per woman.
The constitution guarantees the rights of the
children, but in practice the tradition weighs heavier.
Marriages with minors (under the age of 18) occur and
Islamist groups, especially Shi'ites, have been
campaigning to remove the lowest permissible marriage
age. It happens that children leave school early - or
never start school - to work instead, even though
children under 14 are only allowed to work in small
Gay acts are not mentioned directly in the
constitution, but since the law must follow the values
of Islam, there is a great risk of discrimination on
the basis of sexual orientation. The view of
homosexuality is strongly negative within the Iraqi
public. Since 2003, Islamist groups have attacked,
harassed and murdered gay Iraqis, mainly gay men.
Attacks have also been directed at young people accused
of homosexuality, atheism and the like, for no other
reason than to have adopted Western popular culture and
FACTS - SOCIAL CONDITIONS
23 per 1000 births (2018)
Proportion of population with access to clean
86.1 percent (2015)
Proportion of the population having access to
94.1 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on health care as a
percentage of GDP
3.4 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on health care per person
US $ 153 (2016)
Proportion of women in parliament
26 percent (2018)
US Retreat Agreement
Approves a security agreement between Iraq and the United States on an
upcoming US retreat from Iraq; The Washington government is forced to back down
at some point, most notably about having military bases in Iraq. According to
the agreement, the US combatants must have been withdrawn from all Iraqi cities
by the end of 2009 and have left Iraq completely by the end of 2011.
US leaves troubled Anbar
The US-led military is formally handing over control of the Anbar province in
the west to the Iraqi government. The US military now has the highest command
over only five of Iraq's 18 provinces, including Baghdad.
Christian leaders are murdered
The Chaldean Catholic Church Archbishop in Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, is
found dead after being kidnapped two weeks earlier.