|Population growth rates vary greatly among
regions and even among countries within the same region. One division is that between
industrialized countries and developing countries. The more developed regions include
Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Europe and North America, which are collectively home to
1.19 billion people. On average, population growth in these regions is almost 0.3 per cent
per year, a rate that is projected to dip below zero before 2025, under all but the
highest population projections, as fertility and the proportion of people in their
childbearing years continue to decline. (Projections beyond ten years into the future,
however, unlike estimates of past growth, leave out the possible effects of migration.
Actual rates of growth in industrialized countries will probably be higher.) The
population of less developed regions is estimated at 4.6 billion and is growing at a rate
of 1.6 per cent annually. Over the next 30 years, almost 98 per cent of global population
growth is projected to take place in developing countries. 11
Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States are among the
developed countries with the highest rates of population growth, hovering around the 1 per
cent mark, but that includes the effect of inward migration. Countries with rates of
population growth near zero or declining include Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, the
Russian Federation and Spain. Negative population growth in a number of Eastern European
countries reflect poorer health and rising death rates, as well as outward migration.
Fertility is lowest in Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain.
Africas high rate of population growth also masks
variations within the continent. Rates of growth fluctuate from 2.0 and 1.6 per cent in
Northern and Southern Africa to 2.5 and 2.7 per cent in Western and Middle Africa, while
the average for the continent is about 2.4 per cent. And while higher rates of population
growth are to be found in the Comoros, the Gambia, Guinea, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,
Mozambique and Western Sahara, fertility is highest in Niger, Malawi, Uganda and Angola,
where women have, on average, about 7 children. Africas 1999 population of 767
million people is projected to nearly double by 2035.
Today, women in most African countries want families
smaller than those of their mothers and the use of family planning is increasing, together
with access to services. However, burdened by more than a decade of declining per capita
food production and stagnating per capita incomes, providing and expanding the reach of
health care services is a daunting proposition for the governments of sub-Saharan African
countries, one made even more difficult by high infection rates for HIV/AIDS and other
sexually transmitted diseases. Assistance from the international community will be crucial
for improving health care, including reproductive health and family planning, for
education and for womens empowerment.
After sub-Saharan Africa, the regions with the highest
rates of population growth are Western Asia (2.2 per cent), Northern Africa (2.0 per
cent), Central America (1.9 per cent) and South-Central Asia (1.8 per cent). Again, there
are noteworthy variations among countries. Fertility has declined to less than four
children in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia as access to both family planning services
and education for girls has improved. Population growth rates of around 2 per cent in
these countries contrast with rates of 3.3 per cent or higher in Saudi Arabia and Yemen,
where access to family planning services remains more limited and women have, on average,
nearly 6 children or more.
Similar contrasts are to be found in South-Central Asia.
The population of the region, which includes the Indian sub-continent, Iran and five
former Soviet republics, is projected to increase by about 50 per cent over the next 30
years, from less than 1.5 billion to 2.0 billion under the United Nations medium
variant. While Pakistans fertility rates remain obstinately high, family size in
Bangladesh is now steadily declining. India presents a mixed picture, with high rates in
the north of the country and low ones in the south. A combination of good access to family
planning services and high levels of education among women has supported declining
fertility rates in southern India and Sri Lanka. Throughout the region, efforts to improve
the status of women, including better access to reproductive health care and education,
are essential to enhancing their roles in decisions about childbearing.
Rates of population growth in the rest of Asia range from
around 1 per cent in China, South Korea and Thailand to more than 2 per cent in Cambodia,
Malaysia and the Philippines. Particularly in the Republic of Korea and Thailand, access
to good quality, voluntary family planning services and increasingly higher levels of
female education are credited with supporting declines in family size. Asia as a whole is
home to 60 per cent of the worlds people, and while that proportion will not change
significantly over the next 30 years, the medium variant projection shows Asias
population increasing by more than 37 per cent, reaching over 4.7 billion people in 2025.
In contrast to Asias demographic size, Latin American
and the Caribbean are home to just over 8 per cent of the worlds population. For the
regions 511 million people, population growth rates have fallen by more than
one-third over last three decades and women bear, on average, under 3 children. Life
expectancy in Latin American is close to that of the northern industrialized countries and
infant mortality is the lowest among the worlds developing regions.
While the financial support of governments for family
planning programmes has been key to expanding access to services in Asia, the private
sector, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), has played a much greater role in
Latin America. Partly as a result, there are still significant differences with regard to
access to services within many Latin American countries, depending on the economic status
of those seeking services.
|The Impact of AIDS
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
estimates that 33.4 million people were HIV-positive as of December 1998 -- about one
third of them in the 15-24 age group -- and 2.5 million died of the disease in 1998. It is
estimated that 95 per cent of those infected live in developing countries, and two thirds
live in sub-Saharan Africa, where 8.0 per cent of adults are HIV-positive. AIDS has a
terrible effect on individuals and communities, as it strikes down working people, orphans
children, and places huge strains on health care and social systems.
AIDS will have a major impact on several African countries. In Botswana, for instance,
life expectancy has fallen from 61 years in the late 1980s to 50 in the late 1990s, and is
expected to plunge to 33 by 2010. Because of high fertility rates, most sub-Saharan
African countries are still expected to experience population growth, but for the most
affected nations the pace will be much slower than it would be without the devastating
consequences of AIDS.
The course of this epidemic, both globally and in particular countries, is still yet to
be determined. There are some hopeful signs -- infection and mortality rates are falling
in a number of countries, though they are continuing to rise in others. The development of
the epidemic in South and East Asia, and especially in India and China, is a particular
cause of concern. Slowing and stopping the spread of AIDS will require improvements in
comprehensive reproductive health care, as well as better public education about the risks
and consequences of HIV infection.