UNFPAState of World Population 2002
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P R E S S   S U M M A R Y

Summary: The New Generations

 The momentum of global population growth is slowing. Thanks to the efforts ofthe past 30 years, growth rates have fallen and will fall further in the coming decades. But because of high fertility in the past, world population is still growing by over 80 million a year. It will continue to grow at or near these levels for the next decade: what happens after that depends on action in the coming years.

 

The demographic transition

Support for the young

Communicating about reproductive health

Intergenerational relations

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 region’s 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 today’s developing countries.

The right to decide the size and spacing of one’s 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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