Day of 6 Billion



» The Facts
» October 12
The Day of 6 Billion
» The Myth of Shrinking Population
» Three Faces of Reality
» Population & the Environment
» Poverty, Population &- Development
» Equality & Equity
Empowerment of Women
» Youth & Population
» Consumption & Resources
» Family Planning & Reproductive Health
» Urbanization & Migration
The New Trends
» Money Matters:
Financial Commitments


» Contacts:
» Contacts:
United Nations
» U.S. Scorecard
» Journalist's Notebook

Poverty, Population
& Development

Few people now deny the link between economic development and slower population growth. But development is neither an automatic product of slower population growth nor vice versa. Instead, family planning, reproductive health care and development programs can work together to reduce the rate of population growth and improve the quality of life.

Sustainable development must include the following:

  • Provision of reproductive health care reduces child and maternal mortality rates, which encourages smaller families, later childbearing and planned spacing of births.
  • Investment in education for women and in expanding their access to credit, training, property and legal rights gives them options for achieving status and satisfaction in life through more means than childbearing. It also liberates their economic potential.
  • Smaller family size releases resources that individuals can then invest in work, health care, education, or other economic activity. Fewer children to educate means higher achievement levels for all of them and a smaller total bill.
  • In developing nations, 800 million people are unemployed or under-employed - a number greater than the entire current workforce of the industrialized countries.(1) Those nations must create 40 million new jobs per year just to stay at this level.(2) They also need to guarantee the health and education of their record number of young people (one billion teenagers in 2000) in order to generate prosperity and to care for the growing number of the elderly, and for future generations.

Globalizing markets bring benefits and dangers:

  • A village in rural China is now as likely to be linked to Hollywood movies and advertising on a community TV as it is to be linked to the next town by road or railroad. Expectations for the future are changing accordingly, increasing pressure on governments for advanced development.
  • Every nation now receives a constant stream of new products, often produced far away in unknown conditions. Advertising, now a $435 billion business (3), is the predominant source of product information; consumer safety laws or movements are absent or rudimentary in many developing nations. Unfamiliar products have often brought dangers: tobacco from the New World, alcohol to the Americas, infant formula to areas where no clean water exists.
  • Developing nations seeking income are vulnerable to the "dumping" of commercial imports that may be hazardous such as expired medications, toxic wastes, contaminated food or pesticides banned in the country of origin. Impoverished areas are also the most likely to be the site of polluting industries and waste dumps that threaten their health and livelihoods.
  • Products grown for export purposes may be capital-intensive cash crops, replacing or crowding out those that make up the local food supply. Yet the poor often cannot afford imported replacement foods.

Disparities continue and investment is needed:

  • In 1960, the richest 20% of humanity claimed 70% of all income; by 1997 their share had risen to 86%. Meanwhile the poorest fifth saw their share fall from 2.3% to just 1.3%. The three richest people in the world have assets that together exceed the combined gross domestic product of the 48 least-developed nations. (4)
  • Of the 4.4 billion people in developing nations, a fifth have no access to modern health services of any kind. A quarter do not have adequate housing. A third have no access to clean water. Fully 60% lack access to safe sewers. (5)
  • Attention to the needs of the poor for basic sanitary and transportation services, education, access to productive land and job opportunities will reduce pollution, resource use and stress on the environment. Institutional solutions are needed for management of common global resources of air, water, fisheries, forests and pasture, and for controlling emissions and wastes.
  • Some of the gains in health, education and nutrition during the 1960s and 1970s have since been reversed. In Africa, the proportion of malnourished children rose from 5% to 25% between 1983 and 1993, and primary school enrollment fell from 79% to 67%.(6) The average African household today consumes 20% less than it did 25 years ago.(5)

Sources: (1) International Labor Organization, World of Work, (Washington DC: 1998); and United Nations Population Fund, The State of World Population 1998 (New York: 1998); (2) Population Action International, Why Population Matters, (Washington DC: 1996); (3) United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 1998 (New York, 1998), p. 63; (4) UNDP, Human Development Report 1998, p. 30; (5) UNDP, Human Development Report 1998, p.2; (6) Lawrence H. Summers, US Government, statement to members of the African Development Bank, Abidjan, May 1993.

September 1999