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Volume :10 Issue : 40 1984      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

THE POPULATION OF THE SULTANATE OF OMAN A DEMOGRAPHIC STUDY

Auther : By: Dr. Fathi Mohamed Abu Eyanah

Occupying an area of 300,000 sq. km. in the south-eastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula and with an estimated population of approximately one million in 1983, the Sultanate of Oman is unique among the other Gulf States. Its character was moulded by its peripheral location, environmental differentiations and seaward orientation which created early cultural relations with far regions such as East Africa, southern Persia and India.

Up to 1970, Oman was passing through a primitive stage of demographic transition with high levels of fertility and mortality. Both immigration and natural increase were almost negligible in population growth. By contrast, the post-1970 period has been a period of rapid demographic growth precipitated mostly by the investments of oil revenues in health, education and social welfare, which, taken together have reduced mortality rates. Provision of adequate medical facilities has resulted in extremely high rates of natural increase. The crude birth rate is estimated to be close to 50 per thousand and the death rate is estimated at approximately 20 per thousand. These levels are close to the rates in some neighbouring countries.

Before 1970, Omanis constituted an important source of labour for countries in the Gulf Region. Since then, however, the large out-migration of Omanis has ended and large numbers of Omanis living abroad have returned home. In addition, Oman receives now a considerable number of foreign expatriates as target workers and job seekers. However, immigration of foreign nationals is strictly controlled and is restricted to specialists recruited for specific jobs.

Till the results of the forthcoming census are available, exact statements about Oman’s population would be impossible, however, a limited amount of qualitative material is available from official sources. Most of the population are oasis-wellers and nomads and roughly 80 percent of the labour force is engaged in agriculture. Access to groundwater supplies, both on the flanks of the Jebel al Akhdar and along the coastal margins had determined the distribution of most of the Sultanate’s population. About two thirds of the population reside along the Batina plain and mountainous region with the principal nodes of concentration located along the coastline.

According to the United Nations estimates, roughly one tenth of the population resides in urban areas mostly in the capital twin-city Muscat-Matrah, Nizwa, Sur and Sohar. The capital is expected to outstrip the growth of all other centers in Oman. Its fast growth since the early seventies reflects an overwhelming urban primacy on the national scale.

The ethnic composition of the Sultanate’s population is a result of a long tradition of association with Persia and East Africa. The early cultural and commercial relations added a considerable proportion of Baluchis, Indians and Pakistanis to the Sultanate’s population. These long established immigrants, concentrated in the capital area, retain their characteristic styles of life. Negroes and Negroid strains are also apparent in the population of the East Coast. Where many descendants of Africans settled during the last century.

The modernization of Oman through ambitious plans of development in health, education and other sectors of domestic economy will have a marked effect upon the patterns of population growth, distribution and structure. In such respects, Oman resembles the Arab states of the Gulf where the traditional economic system has been swept away and replaced by modern activities based upon the oil industry.

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