Syria’s economy is based on agriculture, industry and mining. The country’s main exports are oil, cotton, vegetables, fruit, wheat, barley and textiles. 

Only about 30% of the land in Syria is cultivated. Much of the land needs to be irrigated, because rain usually falls during the winter, rather than in the growing season. Syria nevertheless manages to produce a wide variety of crops. Cotton was once Syria’s biggest export and still remains important to the economy. Agriculture employs 23% of the workforce. 

The major manufacturing industry is the production of cotton and silk textiles. Other important industries include cement production and the manufacture of glass, soap, flour, vegetable oil and tobacco products. The manufacturing industry employs 14% of the workforce. The unreliable supply of electricity in Syria is a continuing problem for the manufacturing industry.

Syria has deposits of petroleum, natural gas, phosphates and salt. In the mountain areas there are small quantities of coal, iron ore, copper, gold and lead. There is ongoing exploration for oil, but as yet, Syria has not discovered large reserves.

Because salaries are low, many Syrians have more than one job. A man may work as an electrical engineer in the morning, sell electrical products in the afternoon, and work in his family-run shop in the evening until late at night. Most families pool their incomes. The government helps lower-income families by controlling the prices of essential items.

  Did you know?
The traditional water wheels, known as norias or nawaeers, are used to irrigate Syria’s farmland. Lack of water is one of the main causes of economic problems in Syria.
Women in Syria are more active politically than women in many other countries of the Middle East. There have been women cabinet ministers and several women members of the People’s Legislative Assembly, a branch of the government. However, less than 10% of Syrian women work outside the home and few women workers have positions of authority.
  Did you know?
The Syrian government encourages the making of handicrafts by offering workshops, equipment and other incentives to craft workers. Syrian jewellery, woodwork and carpets are admired throughout the world.