UNFPAState of World Population 2002
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Summary

(Not for release before 3 December 2002)

Introduction
Multiple Dimensions of Poverty
Macroeconomics, Poverty, Population and Development
Poverty and Gender
Poor Health and Poverty
HIV/AIDS and Poverty
Poverty and Education
Population, Poverty and Global Development Goals: The Way Ahead

Introduction

To reduce poverty in developing countries, urgent action is needed to combat poor reproductive health, help women avoid unwanted pregnancies, and eliminate illiteracy and gender discrimination, warns The State of World Population 2002 report from UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

The report argues that addressing population concerns is critical to meeting the Millennium Development Goals of cutting global poverty and hunger in half by 2015, reducing maternal and child deaths, curbing HIV/AIDS, advancing gender equality, and promoting environmentally sustainable development.

Pointing to a “population effect” on economic growth, the report cites new data showing that since 1970, developing countries with lower fertility and slower population growth have seen higher productivity, more savings and more productive investment. They have registered faster economic growth.

Investments in health and education, and gender equality are vital to this effect. Family planning programmes and population assistance were responsible for almost one third of the global decline in fertility from 1972 to 1994. These social investments attack poverty directly and empower individuals, especially women. They enable choice.

Given a real choice, poor people in developing countries have smaller families than their parents did. This downturn in fertility at the “micro” level translates within a generation into potential economic growth at the “macro” level, in the form of a large group of working-age people supporting relatively fewer older and younger dependents.

This “demographic window” opens only once and will close as populations age and older dependents increase. When other policies are supportive, the opportunity can allow dramatic progress. Several countries in East Asia, as well as Mexico and Brazil, have taken advantage of it. The effect of declining fertility in Brazil has been equal to economic growth of 0.7 per cent of GDP per capita each year.

However, the gap between rich and poor continues to widen and the poorest countries continue to lag behind. Poverty, poor health and fertility remain highest in the least developed countries where population has tripled since 1955 and is expected to nearly triple again over the next 50 years.

More social investment is required to promote better health, allow parents to have the number of children they wish, encourage further declines in fertility and enable better education and life choices. The process will hasten the accumulation of “human capital” needed for accelerated and sustainable development.

Far more attention from policy makers and greater international support is needed for population and reproductive health if countries are to halve poverty by 2015 and make effective progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

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