Algeria Table of Contents
Size: 2,381,741 square kilometers, more than fourfifths desert.
Topography: Sharp contrast between relatively fertile, mountainous, topographically fragmented north and vast expanse of Sahara in south; northern Algeria dominated by parallel ranges of Saharan Atlas mountain system; no navigable rivers.
Climate: Mediterranean climate in coastal lowlands and mountain valleys; mild winters and moderate rainfall. Average temperatures and precipitation lower in intermountain Hauts Plateaux. Hot and arid in desert; little seasonal change in most of country but considerable diurnal variation in temperature.
Population: Estimated at 27.4 million in 1993, increasing at an annual rate of 2.8 percent and expected to reach 32.5 million by 2000. Majority of population lives in predominantly urban coastal lowlands and adjacent mountain valleys, with population density dropping sharply toward interior; desert regions uninhabited except for isolated nomadic and sedentary communities. High urbanization rate of 5.6 percent annually, resulting from natural population growth and internal migration.
Ethnic Groups: Population a mixture of Arab and indigenous Berber, largely integrated with little or no social stratification along racial or ethnic lines; several other ethnic groups present in small numbers. Arabs constitute about 80 percent of total.
Languages: Arabic official language and spoken by vast majority; French widely spoken; bilingualism and trilingualism common. Berber spoken in a few isolated Saharan communities and in Tell hill villages.
Religion: Islam official state religion; observance of Sunni (see Glossary) Islam nearly universal. Unofficial militant Islam gaining strength and challenging Western practices in legal and political systems. Non-Muslim minorities include about 45,000 Roman Catholics, small number of Protestants, and very small Jewish community.
Education: Free public education at all levels, including nine-year system of compulsory basic education. In 1991-92 enrollments in basic education totaled almost 5.8 million. Three-track system of secondary education offers placement in general, technical, or vocational instruction.
Literacy: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization estimates 1990 adult literacy rate at 57.4 percent, up from less than 10 percent in 1962; male literacy rate 69.8 percent; female literacy rate 45.5 percent.
Health and Welfare: Major transformations in health care system reflected in improving health conditions. Infant mortality rate reduced from 154 per 1,000 live births in 1965 to sixty-seven per 1,000 live births in 1990. In 1990 life expectancy at birth sixty-five years for males and sixty-six for females. Tuberculosis, trachoma, and venereal infections most serious diseases; gastrointestinal complaints, pneumonia, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and mumps relatively common. Typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, and hepatitis also widespread among all age- groups. National health care system based on universal, almost free health care. Network of hospitals and clinics organized into health districts providing services to 90 percent of population. Modified social security system inherited from French colonial administration, expanded in 1971 to provide sickness and disability insurance, old-age pensions, and family allowances to all workers in formal economy. Acute housing shortage worsening despite growth in public housing.
Data as of December 1993