Size: 2,381,741 square kilometers, more than
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
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
(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
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
Data as of December 1993