The economy of Yemen is traditionally based on agriculture. Most of the farmland is terraced land cut into the mountains to trap rainwater as it flows down the slope from one terrace to the next. Food production is a major concern because in 2010 the population was more than 24 million and increasing rapidly. The demand for firewood has caused deforestation, which in turn has caused serious soil erosion and damage to the mountain terraces that produce the food. Yemen is facing serious environmental concerns.
On the positive side Yemen has some oil and natural gas, which helps the economic conditions and supplies energy.
Women in Yemen do not have the opportunities available in more modernized Gulf States. The fertility rate has gradually dropped from more than 7.0 to 4.8 in 2010. Migration from the rural areas is expanding cities in Yemen. Large families are forcing young people to seek opportunities in the cities or other countries.
Since 1990, Yemen has been a democratic republic. The population of Yemen is about 40 percent Shia and 60 percent Sunni. Yemen sided with Iraq and Saddam Hussein in the First Persian Gulf War in Kuwait, which resulted in Saudi Arabia expelling thousands of Yemeni workers. Yemen and Saudi Arabia have a territorial dispute and recently agreed on the desert border between the two countries. Yemen is the only democracy on the peninsula. Poor, rural, and agriculturally based, Yemen does not fit the mold of the typical oil-rich sheikdom of the region.
Yemen experienced civil unrest and citizen protests in the spring of 2011, similar to the other Arab countries. The protests and demonstrations targeted political corruption, economic conditions, and high unemployment. The protesters called for the president of Yemen to resign, and the conflicts turned serious. The president refused to step down.
Source: Arabs, Islam, and Oil: Yemen
By Saylor Academy, CC-BY 3.0