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POPULATION: Unchecked Fertility Could Lead to 9 Billion by 2050

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 12 2009 (IPS) - The world’s population is estimated to top 9 billion people by 2050, and 7 billion by early 2012, with the biggest increase in developing countries of Asia and Africa, says the U.N. population report launched on Wednesday.

“Still, the future population growth will highly depend on the path that future fertility takes,” the authors say.

According to U.N. experts, in the medium variant, fertility declines from 2.56 children per woman in 2005-2010 to 2.02 children per woman in 2045-2050.

If fertility were to remain about half a child above the levels projected in the medium variant, world population would reach 10.5 billion by 2050. But a fertility path half a child below the medium would lead to a population of 8 billion by mid-century. In either case, the growth of the population is inevitable.

“This report is a timely warning to world leaders of the long-term consequences of failing to invest in the needs of about 200 million women who lack access to safe and effective contraceptives,” the executive director of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA,) Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, told IPS.

She further expressed that funding for family planning must be increased to meet the expressed needs of these women, which would not only shape the world’s future, but also reduce maternal death and reduce unwanted pregnancies.

“Countries should solve these challenges in ways that also ensure the participation of young people as effective actors in their societies,” Obaid said. “We should also expand access to an essential package of reproductive health services, including family planning, safe motherhood and HIV prevention.”

Hania Zlotnik, director of the Population Division at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA,) emphasised the need for funding for family planning programmes, especially for the least developing countries.

“The donor funding is very important especially for those countries that are highlighted, – the least developed countries that badly need help from outside to fund their family planning programmes,” she told IPS.

However, she expressed concern that the recipient governments would direct funds to these particular policies rather than allocating them elsewhere.

The report also shows that when the fertility rate is controlled through education or other ways, populations tend to age. In the developed countries, the population aged 60 and over is the fastest growing and is expected to increase by more than 50 percent over the next four decades.

“This should hasten advance planning for ageing in developing countries by investing in systems to provide older persons with social and economic protection,” Obaid told IPS.

Nine countries are projected to account for half of the world’s population increase: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, the United States, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, China and Bangladesh.

The projection shows that the population of developing countries will rise from 5.6 billion in 2009 to 7.9 billion in 2050, and will be distributed among the population aged 15-59 (1.2 billion) and 60 and over (1.1 billion) because the number of children under age 15 in developing countries will decrease.

The populations of the 49 least developed countries are still the fastest growing in the world, at 2.3 percent per year that will double from current 0.84 billion to 1.7 billion in 2050. The rest of the developing world is estimated to rise from 4.8 billion to 6.2 billion between 2009 and 2050.

The population of developed countries is expected to change minimally, passing from 1.23 billion to 1.28 billion. The numbers would have dropped to 1.15 billion people if not for the projected net migration from developing countries, which is projected to average 2.4 million persons annually from 2009 to 2050, the report said.

The major net receivers of international migrants during 2010 to 2050 are projected to be the United States (1.1 million annually), Canada (214,000), Britain (174,000), Spain (170,000), Italy (159,000), Germany (110,000), Australia (100,000), and France (100,000).

The major countries of net emigration are projected to be Mexico (-334,000), China (-309,000 annually), India (-253,000), the Philippines (-175,000), Pakistan (-161,000), Indonesia (-156,000), and Bangladesh (-148,000).

The populations of 45 countries are expected to decrease at least 10 percent between 2010 and 2050, including Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cuba, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Romania, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

The results of the U.N. revised population report incorporate the findings of the most recent national population censuses and of numerous specialised population surveys carried out around the world.

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