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Volume 2: Population Composition and Demographic Characteristics of the Somali People

Executive summary

Population composition is determined by the size of a population and the prevailing mortality, fertility and migration rates by age and sex. The Somali population has a youthful structure, characterised by a wide base and declining numbers as age increases. The Somali population has increased threefold, from 4.1 million in 1975, to 12.3 million in 2014. There are slightly more males (6.2 million) than females (6.1 million). The Sex Ratio at Birth stands at 89.4, which means that significantly less male than female births are reported, contrary to the norm for the stipulated SRAB for sub-Saharan countries, which is above, but very close to 100. The sex composition of the population indicates a higher number of males than females in most ages, except in the age groups 0-4 and 20-39. There is, however, an undercount in the age group 0-4, which is often observed in sub-Saharan countries. The age composition reveals a high and early onset of mortality, possible emigration of working age populations, and differential migration by sex, with more males emigrating. The country has a low median age of 16 years, indicative of a young population structure with the high fertility, mortality and population growth rate.

The youthful population can prove to be an economic resource, with targeted planning, and investment made to tap into their potential. Half of the total female population is within childbearing age (15-49 years), which may lead to an increase in birth rates in the next few decades. Since the 1975 census, the population distribution has shifted, with a significant reduction in nomadic populations. Overall, 42.4 percent of the population live in urban areas, followed by those in nomadic settlements (25.9 percent) and rural settlements (22.8 percent). The lowest population segment is those living in IDP camps, comprising nine percent of the total population.Urban areas have the highest proportion of households, at 39 percent, while nomadic and rural areas have more than 23 percent each. IDP populations have the lowest share, at 14.4 percent households. The average household size is approximately six members per household. Nomads have the largest household size, with an average of 6.5 members. The smallest average household size is found among the IDP population, with an average of 3.7 members per household.
Somali households are predominantly headed by males. Around 81.3 percent of households are headed by males, whereas women head 18.7 percent of the households. Child-headed households constitute 0.2 percent of households, while single-headed households constitute 12.4 percent, out of which 66 percent are headed by females. The nomadic and rural communities have the highest proportion of households headed by men, at 92.9 percent and 81.3 percent respectively. Compared to nomadic and rural communities, urban areas and IDP camps have a lower proportion of households headed by men, at 77.6 percent and 75.6 percent respectively.
The Singulate Mean Age at Marriage (SMAM) for males and females is 24.7 years, and 23.1 years respectively. The highest SMAM by region is approximately 31 for males and 28 for females, while the lowest is approximately 21 years for males and 19 for females respectively. Both males and females in the urban populations are more likely to delay marriage compared to those in IDP, nomadic and rural populations. Those in the rural areas are more likely to marry at an earlier age.
The SMAM increases among females with the completion of tertiary education. Out of the population aged 15 and above, 58 percent are currently married, while 34 percent have never been married. Those divorced and abandoned (commonly recognised as ‘separated’ in international terms) constitute three and two percent of the population respectively. Out of the
married population, 72.2 percent have not completed any level of education.