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People of Lebanon


The population of Lebanon comprises Christians and Muslims. No official census has been taken since 1932, reflecting the political sensitivity in Lebanon over confessional (religious) balance. The U.S. Government estimate is that more than two-thirds of the resident population is Muslim (Shi'a, Sunni), or Druze, and the rest is Christian (predominantly Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, and Armenian).


Shi'a Muslims make up the single largest sect. Claims since the early 1970s by Muslims that they are in the majority contributed to tensions preceding the 1975-90 civil war and have been the basis of demands for a more powerful Muslim voice in the government. 

While 380,000 Palestinian refugees have registered in Lebanon with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) since 1948, estimates of those remaining range between 160,000-225,000. They are not accorded the legal rights enjoyed by the rest of the population. 

With no official figures available, it is estimated that 600,000-900,000 persons fled the country during the initial years of civil war (1975-76). Although some returned, continuing instability until 1992 sparked further waves of emigration, casting even more doubt on population figures. Approximately 17,000-20,000 people are still "missing" or unaccounted for from the civil war period. 

Many Lebanese still derive their living from agriculture. The urban population, concentrated mainly in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, is noted for its commercial enterprise. A century and a half of migration and return have produced Lebanese commercial networks around the globe--from North and South America to Europe, the Gulf, and Africa. Lebanon has a high proportion of skilled labor compared with many other Arab countries.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Lebanese (sing. and pl.).
Population (est.): 4.4 million. 
Annual growth rate (est): 1.4%.
Ethnic groups: Arab 93%, Armenian 6%.
Religions: Christian (Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Armenian Apostolic, other), Muslim (Sunni, Shi'a, other), and Druze.
Languages: Arabic (official), French, English, Armenian.
Education: Years compulsory--8. Attendance--99%. Literacy--88.4%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--26/1,000 (2003). Life expectancy--male, 71 yrs; female 71.9 yrs.
Work force (950,000 excluding foreign labor, 1999): Industry, commerce, services--70%; agriculture--20%; government--10%.