Demographics of Lebanon

Demographics of Lebanon
Population 5,882,562 (July 2014 est.) – 1.1 million Syrian and 450,000 Palestinian refugees[1] (110)
Growth rate 0.98% (2014 est.) (166)
Birth rate 14.8 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
Death rate 4.95 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
Life expectancy 77.22 years (2014 est.)
  male 76.03 years (2014 est.)
  female 78.46 years (2014 est.)
Fertility rate 1.74 children born/woman (SRS 2014)
Infant mortality rate 7.98 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)
Age structure
0–14 years 25.2% (male 758,153/female 723,619) (2014 est.)Lebanese and non-Lebanese
15–64 years 61.3% (male 1,825,135/female 1,776,953) (2014 est.)
65 and over 9.4% (male 175,911/female 218,046) (2014 est.)
Sex ratio
At birth 1.06 male(s)/female (2014 est.)
Under 15 1.05 male(s)/female (2014 est.)
15–64 years 1.03 male(s)/female (2014 est.)
65 and over 0.86 male(s)/female (2014 est.)
Nationality noun: Lebanese people adjective: Lebanese
Official Arabic[nb 1]
Demographics of Lebanon
Indicator Rank Measure
GDP (PPP) per capita 51st $16,000
Unemployment rate ↓ 21st 20.89%*
CO2 emissions 78th 3.05t
Electricity consumption 77th 49.72GWh
Economic Freedom 95th 2.98
Human Development Index 72nd 0.745
Political freedom Unknown 4
Corruption (A higher score means less (perceived) corruption.) ↓ 134th 2.5
Press freedom 45th 74.00
Literacy Rate 43rd 96.7%
Number of Internet users 59th 2,604,000 users
E-readiness 14th 7.16±
Ease of Doing Business 24th Unknown
Life Expectancy 59th 77.0
Birth rate 113th 15.6
Fertility rate 157th 1.77††
Infant mortality 127th 14.39‡‡
Death rate 157th 7.5
HIV/AIDS rate 127th 0.10%
* including several non-sovereign entities
↓ indicates rank is in reverse order (e.g. 1st is lowest)
per capita
± score out of 10
per 1000 people
†† per woman
‡‡ per 1000 live births

This article is about the demographic features of the population of Lebanon, including population density, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

The cultural and linguistic heritage of the Lebanese people is a blend of both indigenous elements and the foreign cultures that have come to rule the land and its people over the course of thousands of years. In a 2013 interview, the lead investigator, Pierre Zalloua, pointed out that genetic variation preceded religious variation and divisions: "Lebanon already had well-differentiated communities with their own genetic peculiarities, but not significant differences, and religions came as layers of paint on top. There is no distinct pattern that shows that one community carries significantly more Phoenician than another".[2]

About 99% of the population of Lebanon includes numerous Muslim sects and Christian denominations. Because the matter of religious balance is a sensitive political issue, a national census has not been conducted since 1932, before the founding of the modern Lebanese state. Consequently, there is an absence of accurate data on the relative percentages of the population of the major religions and groups.[3] The absence of data and comprehensive statistics concerns also concerns all other demographic studies unrelated to religious balance, due to the all but total inactivity of the concerned public agencies. The only recent (post-war) statistics available are estimates based on studies made by private organizations. There are from 8.6[4] to 14[5] million Lebanese and descendants of Lebanese worldwide.

The biggest study made after the independence on the Lebanese Population was made by the Central Administration of Statistics (in French: "Administration Centrale de la Statistique") under the direction of Robert Kasparian and Mgr. Grégoire Haddad's Social Movement: "L'enquête par sondage sur la population active au Liban en 1970"(in English: "The survey on the active population in Lebanon in 1970"). It was conducted on a sample of 130,000 individuals.[6]

Ethnic groups

Ethnic groups in Lebanon[7]
Ethnic groups


Main article: Lebanese people

Ethnic background is an important factor in Lebanon. The country encompasses a great mix of cultural, religious, and ethnic groups which have been building up for more than 6,000 years. The Arabs invaded and occupied Phoenicia in the 7th century AD from Arabia. The predominant cultural backgrounds and ancestry of the Lebanese vary from Aramaean (Ancient Syria) to Canaanite (Phoenician), and Greek (Byzantine). Lebanese are overall genetically similar to the people of Cyprus and Malta and to the other modern Levantine populations, such as the Syrians, Israelis and Palestinians.[8] The question of ethnic identity has come to revolve more around aspects of cultural self-identification more than descent. Religious affiliation has also become a substitute in some respects for ethnic affiliation.[9] Generally, the cultural and linguistic heritage of the Lebanese people is a blend of both indigenous Phoenician elements and the foreign cultures that have come to rule the land and its people over the course of thousands of years. Moreover, in a 2013 interview, the lead investigator, Pierre Zalloua, pointed out that genetic variation preceded religious variation and divisions: "Lebanon already had well-differentiated communities with their own genetic peculiarities, but not significant differences, and religions came as layers of paint on top. There is no distinct pattern that shows that one community carries significantly more Phoenician than another".[2]

Religious groups

Main article: Religion in Lebanon
Three Lebanese women in 1873.
Religions of Lebanon (2012) [7]
Religions percent

The Phoenicians are some of the oldest Christians in the world, preceded only by the Coptic Christians of Kush (ancient Ethiopia) and Kemet (ancient Egypt). The Maronite Christians, belong to the West Syriac Rite. Their Liturgical language is the Syriac-Aramaic language.[10][11] The Melkite Greek Catholics and the Greek Orthodox, tend to focus more on the Greco-Hellenistic heritage of the region from the days of the Byzantine Empire, and the fact that Greek was maintained as a liturgical language until very recently. Some Lebanese even claim partial descent from Crusader knights who ruled Lebanon for a couple of centuries during the Middle Ages, also backed by recent genetic studies which confirmed this among Lebanese people, especially in the north of the country that was under the Crusader County of Tripoli. This identification with non-Arab civilizations also exists in other religious communities, albeit not to the same extent.

The sectarian system

Lebanon's religious divisions are extremely complicated, and the country is made up by a multitude of religious groupings. The ecclesiastical and demographic patterns of the sects and denominations are complex. Divisions and rivalries between groups date back as far as 15 centuries, and still are a factor today. The pattern of settlement has changed little since the 7th century, but instances of civil strife and ethnic cleansing, most recently during the Lebanese Civil War, has brought some important changes to the religious map of the country. (See also History of Lebanon.)

Lebanon has by far the largest proportion of Christians of any Middle Eastern country, but both Christians and Muslims are sub-divided into many splinter sects and denominations. Population statistics are highly controversial. The various denominations and sects each have vested interests in inflating their own numbers. Sunnis, Shia, Maronites and Greek Orthodox (the four largest denominations) all often claim that their particular religious affiliation holds a majority in the country, adding up to over 150% of the total population, even before counting the other denominations. One of the rare things that most Lebanese religious leaders will agree on is to avoid a new general census, for fear that it could trigger a new round of denominational conflict. The last official census was performed in 1932.

Religion has traditionally been of overriding importance in defining the Lebanese population. Dividing state power between the religious denominations and sects, and granting religious authorities judicial power, dates back to Ottoman times (the millet system). The practice was reinforced during French mandate, when Christian groups were granted privileges. This system of government, while partly intended as a compromise between sectarian demands, has caused tensions that still dominate Lebanese politics to this day.

The Christian population majority is believed to have ended in the early 1960s, but government leaders would agree to no change in the political power balance. This led to Muslim demands of increased representation, and the constant sectarian tension slid into violent conflict in 1958 (prompting U.S. intervention) and again in the grueling Lebanese Civil War, in 1975–90.

Natural Growth Rate in Lebanon throughout years

The balance of power has been slightly adjusted in the 1943 National Pact, an informal agreement struck at independence, in which positions of power were divided according to the 1932 census. The Sunni elite was then accorded more power, but Maronites continued to dominate the system. The sectarian balance was again adjusted towards the Muslim side but simultaneously further reinforced and legitimized. Shia Muslims (by now the second largest sect) then gained additional representation in the state apparatus, and the obligatory Christian-Muslim representation in Parliament was downgraded from a 6:5 to a 1:1 ratio. Christians of various denominations were then generally thought to constitute about 40% of the population, although often Muslim leaders would cite lower numbers, and some Christians would claim that they still held a majority of the population.

18 recognized religious groups

An estimate of the area distribution of Lebanon's main religious groups
Distribution of Lebanon's religious groups according to 2009 municipal election data

The present Lebanese Constitution officially acknowledges 18 religious groups (see below). These have the right to handle family law according to their own courts and traditions, and they are the basic players in Lebanon's complex sectarian politics.

Religious population statistics

Lebanese Muslims[12][13][14][15][16][17][18]
Year Percent
Lebanese Christians[19][13][14][15][16][17]
Year Percent

Note: stateless Palestinians and Syrians are not included in the statistics below since they do not hold Lebanese citizenship. The numbers only include the present population of Lebanon, and not the Lebanese diaspora.

The 1932 census stated that Christians made up 51% of the population. Maronites, largest among the Christian denomination and then largely in control of the state apparatus, accounted for 29% of the total resident population. A study conducted by Statistics Lebanon, a Beirut-based research firm, cited by the United States Department of State found that of Lebanon's population of approximately 4.3 million is estimated to be:[20]

There is also a very small number of other religious minorities such as, Bahais, Buddhists, Hinduists and Mormons.[20]

The CIA World Factbook specifies that of those residing in Lebanon, 59.7% are Muslims (Sunni, Shia, Druze, Alawites, and Sufi) and 39% are Christians (mostly Maronites, Eastern Orthodox, Melkite Catholics, Protestant, Armenian Apostolic, Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic, Syrian Catholic) and 1.3% "Other".[21]


Sects of Islam in Lebanon (2012)[7]
Muslim denomination percent
Shia Muslims
Sunni Muslims
A map of religious and ethnic communities of Syria and Lebanon (1935)

According to the CIA World Factbook,[22] the Muslim population is estimated at around 59.5%[23] within the Lebanese territory and of the 8.6[4]–14[5] million Lebanese diaspora is believed by some to be about 20% of the total population. Sectarian Breakdown:


Sects of Christianity in Lebanon (2012)[7]
Christianity denomination percent
Maronite Catholic
Greek Orthodox
Melkite Catholic
Armenian Orthodox
other Christian minorities
Former Lebanese president Michel Suleiman. In Lebanon, the president has to be a Christian Maronite

It is estimated that the Christian population in Lebanon makes up about 40.5%[22][23][32] within the Lebanese territory and of the 8.6[4]–14[5] million Lebanese diaspora is believed by some to be about 80% of the total population. Sectarian Breakdown:

Other religions

Other religions account for only an estimated 0.3% of the population mainly foreign temporary workers, according to the CIA Factbook. There remains a very small Jewish population, traditionally centered in Beirut. It has been larger: most Jews left the country after the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990) as thousands of Lebanese did at that time.


Prominent Lebanese Figures
وجوه من لبنان

Main article: Lebanese diaspora

Apart from the four and a half million citizens of Lebanon proper, there is a sizeable Lebanese diaspora. There are more Lebanese people living outside of Lebanon (8.6[4]-14[5] million), than within (4.3 million). The majority of the diaspora population consists of Lebanese Christians; however, there are some who are Muslim. They trace their origin to several waves of Christian emigration, starting with the exodus that followed the 1860 Lebanon conflict in Ottoman Syria.

Under the current Lebanese nationality law, diaspora Lebanese do not have an automatic right of return to Lebanon. Due to varying degrees of assimilation and high degree of interethnic marriages, most diaspora Lebanese have not passed on the Arabic language to their children, while still maintaining a Lebanese ethnic identity.

Many Lebanese families are economically and politically prominent in several Latin American countries (in 2007 Mexican Carlos Slim Helú, son of Lebanese immigrants, was determined to be the wealthiest man in the World by Fortune Magazine), and make up a substantial portion of the Lebanese American community in the United States. The largest Lebanese diaspora is located in Brazil, where about 6–7 million people have Lebanese descent (see Lebanese Brazilian). In Argentina, there is also a large Lebanese diaspora of approximately 1.5 million people having Lebanese descent. (see Lebanese Argentine). In Canada, there is also a large Lebanese diaspora of approximately 250,000-500,000 people having Lebanese descent. (see Lebanese Canadians).

The large size of Lebanon's diaspora may be partly explained by the historical and cultural tradition of seafaring and traveling, which stretches back to Lebanon's ancient Phoenician origins and its role as a "gateway" of relations between Europe and the Middle East. It has been commonplace for Lebanese citizens to emigrate in search of economic prosperity. Furthermore, on several occasions in the last two centuries the Lebanese population has endured periods of ethnic cleansing and displacement (for example, 1840–60 and 1975–90). These factors have contributed to the geographical mobility of the Lebanese people.

While under Syrian occupation, Beirut passed legislation which prevented second-generation Lebanese of the diaspora from automatically obtaining Lebanese citizenship. This has reinforced the émigré status of many diaspora Lebanese. There is currently a campaign by those Lebanese of the diaspora who already have Lebanese citizenship to attain the vote from abroad, which has been successfully passed in the Lebanese parliament and will be effective as of 2013 which is the next parliamentary elections. If suffrage was to be extended to these 1.2 million Lebanese émigré citizens, it would have a significant political effect, since as many as 80% of them are believed to be Christian.

Lebanese Civil War refugees and displaced persons

With no official figures available, it is estimated that 600,000–900,000 persons fled the country during the Lebanese Civil War (1975–90). Although some have since returned, this permanently disturbed Lebanese population growth and greatly complicated demographic statistics.

Another result of the war was a large number of internally displaced persons. This especially affected the southern Shia community, as Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 1978, 1982 and 1996 prompted waves of mass emigration, in addition to the continual strain of occupation and fighting between Israel and Hezbollah (mainly 1982 to 2000).

Many Shias from Southern Lebanon resettled in the suburbs south of Beirut. After the war, the pace of Christian emigration accelerated, as many Christians felt discriminated against in a Lebanon under increasingly oppressive Syrian occupation.

According to a UNDP study, as much as 10% of the Lebanese had a disability in 1990.[35] Other studies have pointed to the fact that this portion of society is highly marginalized due to the lack of educational and governmental support of their advancement.[35]


The only spoken language in Lebanon is Lebanese Arabic.

CIA World Factbook demographic statistics

US Census Statistics

The following demographic statistics are from the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise indicated.

Total population: 5,882,562 (July 2014 est.)
Total: 29.34 years
Male: 27.28 years
Female: 31.43 years (2011 est.)
1.04% (2005 est.)
0.96% (2011 est.) according to CIA Factbook
−4.43 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15–64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female
total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (2005 est.)
total population: 79.82 years
male: 77.28 years
female: 80.36 years (2010 est.)

Vital statistics

UN estimates[36]

Period Live births per year Deaths per year Natural change per year CBR1 CDR1 NC1 TFR1 IMR1
1950–1955 61,000 24,000 38,000 39.9 15.4 24.4 5.74 90.0
1955–1960 70,000 23,000 47,000 39.3 12.7 26.6 5.72 72.8
1960–1965 77,000 22,000 55,000 37.6 10.7 26.9 5.69 61.1
1965–1970 81,000 21,000 59,000 34.5 9.2 25.3 5.34 53.4
1970–1975 83,000 21,000 62,000 31.9 8.1 23.8 4.78 47.0
1975–1980 85 000 22 000 63 000 30.5 7.8 22.7 4.31 44.2
1980–1985 84,000 21,000 62,000 29.5 7.6 21.9 3.90 40.6
1985–1990 78,000 21,000 57,000 26.7 7.3 19.4 3.31 36.8
1990–1995 80,000 23,000 57,000 24.8 7.1 17.8 3.00 31.4
1995–2000 81,000 26,000 56,000 22.6 7.1 15.5 2.70 28.1
2000–2005 69,000 27,000 42,000 17.7 6.9 10.8 2.09 25.6
2005–2010 66,000 28,000 38,000 15.9 6.9 9.1 1.86 22.7
2010–2015 63,000 29,000 34,000 14.8 7.1 7.7 1.81 18.7
1 CBR = crude birth rate (per 1000); CDR = crude death rate (per 1000); NC = natural change (per 1000); TFR = total fertility rate (number of children per woman); IMR = infant mortality rate per 1000 births

Registered births and deaths[37]

Average population Live births Deaths Natural change Crude birth rate (per 1000) Crude death rate (per 1000) Natural change (per 1000) Total fertility rate (TFR)
2007 80 896 21 092 59 804 21.5 5.6 15.9
2008 84 823 21 048 63 775
2009 90 388 22 260 68 128
2010 95 218 22 926 72 292
2011 98 569 26 070 72 499 26.1 6.9 19.2
2012 94 842 23 452 71 390
2013 95 246 24 013 71 233
2014 104 872 27 020 77 852

Immigrants and ethnic groups

There are substantial numbers of immigrants from other Arab countries (mainly Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Egypt) and non-Arab-speaking Muslim countries. Also, recent years have seen an influx of people from Ethiopia[38] and South East Asian countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Sri Lanka,[39] as well as smaller numbers of other immigrant minorities, Colombians and Brazilians (of Lebanese descent themselves). Most of these are employed as guest workers in the same fashion as Syrians and Palestinians, and entered the country to search for employment in the post-war reconstruction of Lebanon. Apart from the Palestinians, there are approximately 180,000 stateless persons in Lebanon.

Armenians, Jews and Iranians

Lebanese Armenians, Jews and Iranians form more distinct ethnic minorities, all of them in possession of a separate languages (Armenian, Hebrew, Persian) and a national home area (Armenia, Israel, Iran) outside of Lebanon. However, they total 5% of the population.

French and Italians

During the French Mandate of Lebanon, there was a fairly large French minority and a tiny Italian minority. Most of the French and Italian settlers left after Lebanese independence in 1943 and only 22,000 French Lebanese and 4,300 Italian Lebanese continue to live in Lebanon. The most important legacy of the French Mandate is the frequent use and knowledge of the French language by most of the educated Lebanese people.


Around 450,000 Palestinian refugees were registered in Lebanon with the UNRWA in 2014, who are refugees or descendants of refugees from the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Some 53% live in 12 Palestine refugee camps, who "suffer from serious problems" such as poverty and overcrowding.[40] Some of these may have emigrated during the civil war, but there are no reliable figures available. There are also a number of Palestinians who are not registered as UNRWA refugees, because they left earlier than 1948 or were not in need of material assistance. The exact number of Palestinians remain a subject of great dispute and the Lebanese government will not provide an estimate. A figure of 400,000 Palestinian refugees would mean that Palestinians constitute more than 10% of the resident population of Lebanon.

Palestinians living in Lebanon are considered foreigners and are under the same restrictions on employment applied to other foreigners. Prior to 2010, they were under even more restrictive employment rules which permitted, other than work for the U.N., only the most menial employment. They are not allowed to attend public schools, own property, or make an enforceable will.[41] Palestinian refugees, who constitute nearly a tenth of the country's population, have long been denied basic rights in Lebanon. They are not allowed to attend public schools, own property or pass on inheritances, measures Lebanon says it has adopted to preserve their right to return to their property in what constitutes Israel now.

Their presence is controversial, and resisted by large segments of the Christian population, who argue that the primarily Sunni Muslim Palestinians dilute Christian numbers. Many Shia Muslims also look unfavorably upon the Palestinian presence since the refugee camps have tended to be concentrated in their home areas. The Lebanese Sunnis, however, would be happy to see these Palestinians given the Lebanese nationality, thus increasing the Lebanese Sunni population by well over 10% and tipping the fragile electoral balance much in favor of the Sunnis. Late prime minister Rafiq Hariri —himself a Sunni— had hinted on more than one occasion on the inevitability of granting these refugees Lebanese citizenship. Thus far the refugees are Lebanese citizenship as well as many rights enjoyed by the rest of the population, and are confined to severely overcrowded refugee camps, in which construction rights are severely constricted.

Palestinians may not work in a large number of professions, such as lawyers and doctors. However, after negotiations between Lebanese authorities and ministers from the Palestinian National Authority some professions for Palestinians were allowed (such as taxi driver and construction worker). The material situation of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is difficult, and they are believed to constitute the poorest community in Lebanon, as well as the poorest Palestinian community with the possible exception of Gaza Strip refugees. Their primary sources of income are UNRWA aid and menial labor sought in competition with Syrian guest workers.

The Palestinians are almost totally Sunni Muslim, though at some point Christians counted as high as 40% with Muslims at 60%. The numbers of Palestinian Christians has diminished in later years, as many have managed to leave Lebanon. During the Lebanese Civil War, Palestinian Christians sided with the rest of the Palestinian community, instead of allying with Lebanese Eastern Orthodox or other Christian communities.

60,000 Palestinians have received Lebanese citizenship, including most Christian Palestinians.[42][43]


Main article: Syrians in Lebanon

In 1976, the then Syrian president Hafez al-Assad sent troops into Lebanon to fight PLO forces on behalf of Christian militias. This led to escalated fighting until a cease-fire agreement later that year that allowed for the stationing of Syrian troops within Lebanon. The Syrian presence in Lebanon quickly changed sides; soon after they entered Lebanon they had flip-flopped and began to fight the Christian nationalists in Lebanon they allegedly entered the country to protect. The Kateab Party and the Lebanese Forces under Bachir Gemayel strongly resisted the Syrians in Lebanon. In 1989, 40,000 Syrian troops remained in central and eastern Lebanon under the supervision of the Syrian government. Although, the Taif Accord, established in the same year, called for the removal of Syrian troops and transfer of arms to the Lebanese army, the Syrian Army remained in Lebanon until the Lebanese Cedar Revolution in 2005 to end the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.

In 1994, the Lebanese government under the pressure of the Syrian government, gave Lebanese passport to thousands of Syrians.[44]

There are nearly 1.08 million registered[45] Syrian refugees in Lebanon.[46]


Main article: Assyrians in Lebanon

There are an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 Iraqi Assyrian refugees in Lebanon. The vast majority of them are undocumented, with a large number having been deported or put in prison.[47][48][49] They belong to various denominations, including the Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church, and Syriac Catholic Church.


Main article: Iraqis in Lebanon

Due to the US-led invasion of Iraq, Lebanon has received a mass influx of Iraqi refugees numbering at around 100,000. The vast majority of them are undocumented, with a large number having been deported or put in prison.[47]


Main article: Kurds in Lebanon

There are an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 Kurdish refugees from Turkey and Syria within Lebanese territory. Many of them are undocumented. As of 2012, around 40% of all Kurds in Lebanon do not have Lebanese citizenship.[50]

Also, there are about 200,000 Mardalli in Lebanon, i.e. people originating from the Mardin province in Turkey, most of them live in Beirut. The Mardallis are often referred to as Kurds by the Lebanese people due to their close culture and similar vocabulary with the Kurdish peoples of Mardin. But the Mardallis are a mix population, as is the population in Mardin itself.


  1. Lebanese Arabic is the most commonly spoken dialect among the citizens of Lebanon. While French is the most common spoken foreign language among the citizens of Lebanon. See: French language in Lebanon


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