Support for the young
Communicating about reproductive health
Formal support for the elderly
Extending life and health
Maximizing resources for the new generations
||Women are having half as
many children as their mothers generation, because they have more choices in
education, marriage and employment, as well as in family size and spacing. Extending these
choices to all women will further slow the momentum of population growth.
Past high fertility also means that more young people than ever over 1 billion
between ages 15 and 24 are entering their childbearing years. At the same time, the
number and proportions of people over 65 are increasing at an unprecedented rate.
The rapid growth of young and old "new generations" is challenging
societies ability to provide education and health care for the young, and social,
medical and financial support for the elderly.
Over the next two decades some less developed regions will see a temporary
"bulge" in the working-age population relative to older and younger dependants.
This "demographic bonus" offers countries an opportunity to build human capital
and spur long-term development if they invest in education, jobs and health
services, including reproductive health care.
East Asia was the first developing region to experience the demographic bonus, and it
helped to build the regions prosperity into the mid-1990s. A similar window of
opportunity is opening in Southeast Asia and South Asia. (See press feature, "Shift
to Smaller Families Can Bring Economic Benefits".)
World population, 3 billion in 1960 and 5 billion in 1987, will pass 6 billion in
mid-1999. Whether it ultimately grows to 8, 10 or 12 billion will depend on policy
decisions in the next decade. Over 90 per cent of the growth will take place in
todays developing countries.
The right to decide the size and spacing of ones family has been internationally
accepted as a human right since 1968, but a high proportion of pregnancies are still
unintended and unwanted. Many unwanted pregnancies end in unsafe abortion, threatening the
lives and health of mothers and their children. Securing reproductive rights in practice
will minimize abortion, reinforce the trend towards smaller families and slower population
growth, and ease the course to sustainable development.
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