A country's population is a crucial element in an analysis of living conditions. First, living conditions for various population groups are the very focus of concern for such studies. Second, a country's population is also among its most important resources. It is the skills and knowledge of humans that enable services and welfare in areas like health, housing and education.

One of the main goals of this chapter is to introduce criteria and concepts of importance for the identification of different population groups. Some criteria, like age and gender, are well known and defined. Other criteria, like for example the definitions of "Palestinian" and "UNRWA refugee" are specific for this geographic region and may therefore require further delimitations.

Identification of the composition of the population with regard to geographical distribution, refugee status, age and gender may be considered a pre-requisite both for evaluation of living conditions as well as for public planning and policy implementation. The relevance of different living condition components may vary across region and socio-economic groups. Certain welfare aspects in the occupied territories, like for example the availability of education in Gaza, may be of great importance to young Gazans, but of little relevance to older residents in Arab Jerusalem.

The first part of this chapter consequently deals with the present composition of the population in the occupied territories. The population distribution by region, type of locality, refugee status, age and gender will be discussed, both on a national and on a regional level.

The second part of the chapter deals with one of the most important determinants of future living conditions in the occupied territories, that is the high population growth rate caused by high fertility. There is little reason to doubt that it poses great challenges in terms of future welfare policy. In particular, strains will be put on the ability of the educational system and the labour market to absorb the steadily increasing number of young people wishing to improve their lot.


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