Facts and Figures on Cairo

by Sally Ethelston
published in MER202

Despite the attention focused on the problems of cities around the world -- most recently at the Habitat II Conference in Istanbul -- surprisingly little comparable data on urban centers are available, as was found by the World Resources Institute in preparing their 1996-1997 World Resources report. Population figures, for example, often vary depending on the definition of the urban center concerned. In the case of Cairo, estimates of its population range from a low of 9.7 million to a high of 12 million. This variation is due, in part, to the fact that Cairo can be defined at least three ways: Cairo city, metropolitan Cairo and the Greater Cairo region. Greater Cairo falls under at least three separate jurisdictions -- Cairo, Giza and Qalyoubiyya -- which further complicates the collection of data.

Population Density Greater Cairo: 40,000 persons per square kilometer; up to 100,000/sq km in older districts.

Rate of Growth While Cairo city is now growing at a rate of less than 2 percent per year, other parts of Greater Cairo are growing at a rate of more than 3 percent. If growth were to continue at just the 2 percent rate, however, Cairo’s population would double in 35 years.

Life Expectancy 65 years

Infant Mortailty 35.1 per 1,000 live births (1991), Cairo city only. As in many developing countries, infant mortality rates are lower in urban than in rural areas. A comparison of data from the mid-1980s with that of other major cities placed Cairo on par with Bombay and Istanbul.

Maternal Mortality 200 women die for every 100,000 live births (1992), Cairo city only. Egypt’s overall maternal mortality rate of about 250 per 100,000 live births is in the range of such countries as Guatemala and Mexico, but roughly twice as high as the rate in such Middle Eastern countries as Tunisia, Iran and Syria.

Adult Literacy 69.3 percent total; 59.2 percent female (1992), Cairo city only.

Unemployment Rate 10 percent (1993), Cairo city only. Unemployment among women is estimated at 20.7 percent. Beyond the official unemployment rate, however, disguised unemployment or underemployment, is a severe problem in both the central and local government bureaucracy where the rate of disguised unemployment may exceed 30 percent.

Income 2,782 Egyptian pounds per capita (1992), Cairo city only. Real GDP per capita, which is based upon purchasing power, was estimated at $2,570 for 1992-1993 or about half of what the UN Development Program considers sufficient.

Water About 20 percent of Cairo’s population, mostly in Giza and other peripheral areas, have no access to piped water and use canals, wells and public water fountains. As much as half the water available is lost due to leaks and breaks in water pipes.

Electricity More than 95 percent of households throughout Greater Cairo have electricity.

Sewerage Some 3 million people lack adequate sewerage. In the 1970s, prior to an internationally financed upgrading of some of the sewerage system, over 100 incidents of sewerage flooding occurred daily.

Telephones 510 per 1,000 households (Cairo city only, 1992).

Public Safety In a 1990 study, the murder rate in Cairo was cited as less than five per 100,000 population per year. This was on a par with most Asian cities and similar to murder rates in Britain. Murder rates in such US cities as New York, Washington and Miami were between 10 and 20 per 100,000.

Sources Egypt Human Development Report 1995, (Cairo: Institute of National Planning, 1995); Cities: Life in the World’s 100 Largest Metropolitan Areas, (Washington, DC; Population Action International, 1990); UN Population Division, Population Growth and Policies in Mega-Cities: Cairo (New York, 1990); World Resource Institute et al, World Resources, 1996-97 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

Filed under: