There are over 6.5 billion people in the world. In the late 20th Century, the population was doubling every 30 years – this was described as the ‘population explosion’. Various predictions have been made about future population growth. In 1996, one study by Earthscan estimated that the world’s population would peak at around 10.6 billion in 2080 and then decline. The main reason for the slow down in population growth is that fertility rates are falling faster than had been expected.
Population growth in the less developed world
The fastest rates of population growth have bee in the less economically developed world. Consequently, the greates falls in fertility rates are expected to take place there. The average rate in the less developed world (excluding China) is 1.8%. Except in Africa and the Middle East, where in almost 50 countries families of at least six children are the norm and the annual population growth is still over 2.3%, birth rates are now declining in less developed countries.
India is approaching China as the most populous country on Earth. Its population is over 1.2 billion and is expected to overtake that of China by 2050. This assumes an annual population growth of around 0.9% per year for India compared to 0.4% for China. In te southern states of India, such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where literacy ratees are high, fertility rates have fallen sharply. However, in the impoverished Hindi belt in the north, traditional attitudes prevail, ensuring large numbers of children. Nevertheless, in India as a whole, fertility has dropped more than 50% in the last 30 years.
Fertility rates are declining in a rnage of less developed countries from east Asia to the Caribbean, and throughout most of South America. Although traditional religious attitudes are usually seen as a barrier to low fertility, in the Islamic world fertility is now below replacement level, at fewer than 2.12 children per woman. Tunisia, Iran and Turkey are all now in the category.
Population growth in the more developed world
In the more economcially developed world, populationgrowth has been slow for sveral decades. In some countries, for example, Italy, Russia and Portugal, there has even been a small fall in the population- In Italy a population decrease of 4 million by 2020 is forecast. In the next 40 years, Germany could see its population drop by almost 20% and Japan by 25%. In Russia, President utin has describe the country’s natural decrease as a ‘national crisis’.
The fertility required to maintain the population level is 2.12 children per woman. There are already over 50 nations with fertility rates at or below this level. The UN predicts that by 2016 there will be 88 nations in this category – the ‘Under 2.1 club’. China is already a member of this ‘club’, alhtough its population will not beh=gin to decline until 2040 at the earliest. This is the time lag between reaching replacement-level fertility and actual population decline. Population growth in China will continue well into the 21st Century
There are very low fertilitty rates in many east European countries, for example Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Lativia. Here economic collapse and uncertainity following the end of communist rule has made many women postpone or abandon having children.
Conversely at 2.0 fertility in the USA is relatively high. Some writers suggest that this is becasue the American people are more religious and optimistic than those in most other rich nations, leading to a desire for more children. It is also thought that immigration will contine to be high in the USA. This gives a younger structure to the population, thereby increasing fertility.
Some of the highest death rates are found in less developed countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Liberia, Nigerm Sierra Leone, Zambia and Zimbabwe all have death rates of 20 per 1,000 or more. However, some of the lowest mortality rates are also found in countries at the lower end of the development range, for example Kuwait (2 per 1,000), Bahrain (3 per 1,00) and Mexico (5 per 1,000). WHY DOES MORTALITY VARY?
· Infant mortality is a prime indicator of socioeconomic development. It is the most sensitive of the age-specific rates. Sierra Leone has an infant mortality rate of 163 per 1,000 live births. Infant mortality is falling across the world, but there are still wide variations between nations – 142 infant deaths per 1,000 births in Liberia, but only 3 per 1,000 in Finland. Areas with high rates of infant mortality have high rates of mortality overall.
· Areas with high levels of medical infrastructure have low levels of mortality. A lack of prenatal and postnatal care, a shortage of medical facilities and trained professionals, and ignorance of the need for professional care are major contributors to high rates of mortality.
· Life expectancy is higher in countries with higher levels of economic development. Poverty, poor nutrition and a lack of clean water and sanitation (all associated with low
levels of economic development) increase mortality rates. Worldwide, only 58% of the population has access to one of life’s fundamental needs: adequate or improved sanitation facilities. There are however, wide regional and rural/urban disparities. In developing countries, one ¼ to ½ of all rural residents have access to improved sanitation. In many parts of the world, rural populations also lack access to safe drinking water.
· The incidence of AIDS is having a major effect on mortality, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The number of people in the world now living with AIDS/HIV is over 40 million, with over 25 million in sub-Saharan Africa. In some countries in southern Africa (Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho and Zimbabwe), over 20% of the total population is affected. Out of the 7 million HIV/AIDS suffers in south and south-east Asia, over 5 million live in India. It is estimated, however. that infection rates have begun to decline in countries
· Around the world, mortality has fallen steadily because of medical advances. People are more willing to control mortality than they are to control fertility