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Iran, 17th Largest Population in the World

Iran 17th largest population

Iran has the 17th largest population in the world with over 77 million people. The largest population group which constitutes one third of the total population is between 15 to 29 years of age. This young and growing population has exerted great demands on country’s economy and employment opportunities in the past decade. Growing population automatically leads to greater demand on a myriad of products such as foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, household appliances, automobiles, etc.


Since the country’s domestic production has failed to keep pace with this rising market demand, a large number of products in high volumes have been imported to Iran in the past years. Another issue in this regard has been product quality. Higher standards of living have raised the bar high for everyday used products, a lot of which have been unable to meet the required expectations and as a result the need for imported products has increased significantly. A bigger challenge related to the population growth has been the increasing job demand in the country and high unemployment rate. 

It should be noted that over 18% of Iranians are highly educated and the job market has not been able to provide them with suitable employment opportunities. One way to overcome this dilemma is to attract foreign investment that in addition to country’s economic development can also decrease the high unemployment rate in Iran. The cheap, available and highly skilled workforce eagerly seeking employment together with Iran’s unique geopolitical situation and rich natural resources creates an outstanding opportunity for foreign investors.


Iran has been very successful in its fertility plans to control the population growth rate. The effective birth control policies in Iran have placed the country on top of the greatest fertility decreases list. Average fertility rates fell from over six children born per woman in the early 1980s to two children during the first years of this century. In just one generation, Iran accomplished a demographic transition that took Western Europe centuries to achieve. A wide range of factors were combined with the government’s family program that have also led to the reduction in population growth rate, such as: a later age at marriage (now 24 for women); increased girls’ education especially at higher levels; the decline in infant mortality; rural development; economic hardship; and the high cost of raising children. 


Iran enjoys great variety of ethnic groups. Its population is made up of Persians (51%), Azeris (24%), Gilaki and Mazandarani (8%), Kurds (7%), Arabs (3%), Baluchi (2%) and Lurs (2%). The largest linguistic group comprises speakers of Iranian languages, like modern Persian, Kurdish, Gilaki, Mazandarani, Luri, Talysh, and Balochi. Speakers of Turkic languages, such as the Azeri, Turkmen, and the Qashqai peoples, comprise a substantial minority. About 99% of the Iranians are Muslims; 90% belong to the Shi'a branch of Islam, the official state religion.


Iran exhibits one of the steepest urban growth rates in the world according to the UN humanitarian information unit. Approximately 67 percent of Iran's population lives in urban areas. The six most populous cities in the country are Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, Tabriz, Karaj and Shiraz. Iran also hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world, with more than one million refugees, mostly from Afghanistan (80%) and Iraq (10%). Since 2006, Iranian officials have been working with the UNHCR and Afghan officials for their repatriation.